DAYS UNTIL ELECTION DAY: 13
Vice President Mike Pence will host a Make America Great Again rally at the Fort Wayne Aero Center on Thursday, a perplexing campaign stop in a safe Republican congressional district in a safe Republican state less than two weeks out from Election Day.
The news led local and national pundits to wonder whether Indiana’s 11 electoral votes were now in play. None of the polling I’ve seen—public or private—suggests as much. A SurveyUSA poll of 527 likely voters shows Trump’s support has dropped 12 points here since he won the state by 19 points in 2016. (The poll had a margin of error of 5.2).
In a fundraising email this morning from Indiana GOP, issued “FROM THE DESK OF VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE,” Pence notes: “President Donald Trump and I need you to deliver for us again! In 2016, Indiana was first on the board for President Trump’s upset win. Can the president and I count on you as we make history for the second time?”
The stop in Fort Wayne—a day before he’ll vote early in Indianapolis— underscores that as an open question. The rally’s location doesn’t buy the Trump campaign much exposure in adjacent Ohio and Michigan media markets. Still, Pence will be spending nearly a day-in-a-half in what is largely considered to be safe Republican territory, days out from an election that could potentially be a landslide in former Vice President Joe Biden’s favor.
The rally’s location suggests that Pence is hoping to perhaps buoy his former lieutenant governor-turned incumbent Gov. Eric Holcomb, who is facing a stiff challenge on his right flank from Libertarian Donald Rainwater in the waning days of the campaign. “We haven’t made an announcement yet for his schedule later this week,” said Holly Lawson, the campaign’s press secretary, when asked whether Holcomb will attend Thursday’s rally.
Rainwater has assailed Holcomb’s mask order and his approach to Indiana’s lockdown. In the first gubernatorial debate last night, Holcomb seemed to spend more of his focus on Rainwater than on his Democratic opponent, Dr. Woody Myers. “It’s easy to talk about doing away with something, but you need to have a plan to replace it or citizens will suffer,” Holcomb said of Rainwater’s tax plan. For his part, Rainwater argued that the government shouldn’t play a role in responding to Covid-19. “Only you can determine what risk you are willing to take and what are the appropriate measures that you need to take for yourself, your family, your business, your church, or any other situation that you might find yourself in,” Rainwater told voters.
Meanwhile, Myers hit Holcomb from the left, arguing that Holcomb’s order wasn’t a “mask mandate,” but a “mask suggestion.” “If what we were doing was working, we wouldn’t have record numbers,” Myers said.
Holcomb will brief reporters today at 2:30 p.m.
Good Wednesday morning, and welcome back to IMPORTANTVILLE.
WHERE’S VEEP? He heads to Portsmouth, N.H., for a 2 p.m. Make America Great Again event, before jetting to Cincinnati for another rally at 6:05 p.m.
WHERE’S PETE? He barnstormed West Michigan Monday for former Vice President Joe Biden, making stops in Grand Rapids, Stockbridge, and Kalamazoo.
- In Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, which according to CNN is now the fifth most likely district to flip nationwide, the biggest outside spender is Club for Growth Action, the conservative PAC, which has spent $1,432,547 on behalf of Republican Victoria Spartz.
- The second-biggest spender in the race has been the National Republican Congressional Committee, which has spent $1,351,900 so far.
- The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is the third-biggest spender, at $1,178,465.
- CMS Chief Seema Verma campaigned in Raleigh, North Carolina on Wednesday.
- Hoosier Ron Klain—the first IMPORTANTVILLE interview back in April of 2018, and our first IMPORTANTVILLE live guest—has been shortlisted as Biden’s chief of staff, according to Bloomberg.
YOUNG ON CORONAVIRUS RELIEF, BARRETT NOMINATION
Sen. Todd Young criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on coronavirus negotiations on Tuesday, saying he was not optimistic about a deal. He also extolled SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett. “I think we’ll find that this is one Hoosier for years to come, who will be serving this country with great honor and distinction,” Young said.
THE PETE BEAT
- SurveyUSA looked at Pete Buttigieg’s favorability ratings in Indiana, an interesting window into where Buttigieg starts should he decide to pursue a statewide bid for governor in 2024: 37 percent of registered voters had a somewhat favorable or very favorable view of Buttigieg. 31 percent had a somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable opinion of him. Mike Pence, meanwhile, saw 51 percent of voters strongly approving or somewhat approving him. Meanwhile, only 41 percent of voters somewhat disapproved or strongly disapproved of Pence.
- Buttigieg doppelgänger and former Butler University basketball coach Brad Stevens and Pete Buttigieg teamed up for a GOTV event.
INSIDE THE FIFTH: Fact-checking Victoria Spartz’s CPA résumé
Victoria Spartz has made her time as a certified accountant a key talking point of her 5th District Congressional campaign. “It’s just valuable experience,” the Republican told me in August on a muggy Indiana day, as we sat in a stale conference room at the Hamilton County Republican Headquarters. “It’s very valuable on your résumé.”
Burnishing her pro-business bona fides, Spartz, who is running against Democrat Christina Hale in the suburban battleground district, has often played up her experience working for the so-called Big Four firms—the four largest professional services firms in the world: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Victoria has worked in the Big 4 public accounting firms for Fortune 500 companies,” her bio reads.
“The public accounting profession is a high-integrity and high-accountability profession that gave me an enormous understanding of businesses and finances in a variety of industries,” Spartz’s campaign wrote in a Zionsville Monthly ad during the primary that noted she “worked for the Big Four public accounting firms auditing complex publicly traded Fortune 500 companies.”
“I was auditing manufacturing firms all over the country even as I was pregnant with our first child,” Spartz wrote in the ad. “I audited insurance, banks, pharma, health care, consumer finance, investment funds, consumer goods, government entities, and I worked on a variety of major projects, including training and auditing auditors.”
A close review of public records and her own public comments buttresses many of her claims.
Spartz’s professional arc from the bank teller in the early 2000s to CPA is indeed a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps story. In September 2005, she began working for Crowe Horwath LLP—a large firm, to be certain, but not one counted among the Big Four—according to a copy of her application from the Indiana Board of Accountancy.
There, she was a staff auditor until March 2007, fewer than two years in a position where she was not yet a certified public accountant. She first submitted her application for the CPA exam in 2006. She would pass the exam in May 2007. But it wasn’t until November 2008 when she became a licensed certified public accountant in Illinois, working for Crowe. At the time, Illinois was what was considered a two-tiered state where after passing the CPA exam, you became a CPA certificate holder. After several years of work experience, a qualified person could opt to become a licensed CPA.
She had another seven-month stint at Crowe beginning in July 2009 to February 2010 as an audit consultant. During that time, she commuted to Chicago and traveled extensively. Wanting to spend more time with her children, she had incorporated International Strategic Business Consulting Group Inc., in March 2009.
Spartz didn’t officially earn her Indiana CPA license until April of 2010, according to a copy of her license from the Indiana Board of Accountancy.
In April, when I asked her how she became worth at least $8 million, she told me: “I did public accounting. I was in the Big Four. I was very successful.”
Spartz has also said that she audited companies long before she had a CPA license. “I audited manufacturing company in the early 2000s,” she said at a town hall earlier this year. “And we print unreasonable regulations, they move overseas.” She didn’t enroll at IUPUI for her Masters Of Professional Accountancy until January 2004 and graduated in May 2006.
In our August interview, I asked Spartz which of the Big Four companies she worked for—a basic bit of biography that until recently hadn’t been disclosed amid the campaign.
“First,” she told me, “I was with Crowe and Howarth International, and then I worked at KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Those were the last firms that I worked.”
“I would take some different projects with them,” Spartz told me back in August. “I did actual quality control inspections. I was a national trainer. I did methodology development. I did other things, and I did some forensic projects. I did some other ones.”
A PwC spokesperson confirmed that Spartz worked as a manager in the company’s Assurance line of services from 2013 to 2016. KPMG didn’t respond to requests seeking to confirm her employment.
Spartz’s Indiana CPA license is currently inactive, though she maintains an active Illinois license.
INSIDE THE SECOND CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
In partnership with The Indiana Citizen—a nonpartisan, not-for-profit startup aimed at improving voter registration, education, and turnout among Hoosiers— IMPORTATNVILLE is publishing Indiana statewide and local candidate profiles in the run-up to the election.
Next up: Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District.
The most famous politician in the 2nd Congressional District, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, may have had a better shot at winning the presidency than winning an election to represent his neighbors in Congress. After all, he did win the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. And more Americans have voted for Democrats than Republicans in six of the last seven presidential elections.
The trend has turned strongly toward Republicans in the 2nd District. The district was usually competitive in the 2000s, with Republican Chris Chocola winning in 2002 and 2004 and Democrat Joe Donnelly winning in 2006, 2008 and 2010. But after the 2010 Census, the district was redrawn to eliminate a part of Kokomo, with a strong union tradition. South Bend, a longtime Democratic stronghold in the state, remains the largest city in the district. But with just over 100,000 residents, fewer than one-seventh of the district’s residents are part of that Democratic stronghold. The district has been represented since 2012 by Republican Jackie Walorski.
Walorski lost narrowly in her first race for Congress in 2010, then won narrowly in 2012 after redistricting. Beginning in 2014, she’s won her races by 10% to more than 20%. She’s staunchly conservative on social issues and generally agrees with mainstream Republican positions. She doesn’t appear to spend much time on raising her national political visibility, instead concentrating on protecting the district’s interests and looking for ways to address specific problems. For example, she worked to make it easier and safer for members of the military to report sexual assault, examine the federal food stamp program, and include promotion of non-opioid pain relief in legislation to combat opioid addiction. She sometimes works with Democrats on veterans, defense and family and children’s wellbeing issues.
Walorski has never picked a fight directly with President Trump, but when presidential priorities conflict with the interests of the 2nd District, she says she fights for the district. An example: The 2nd District, according to a 2015 analysis has the second-highest share of manufacturing jobs in the nation — 23.1%. Walorski objected to the effects of higher trade tariffs on auto-industry suppliers, and reported that she went “eyeball to eyeball” with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the subject.
Her opponent, Pat Hackett, already has demonstrated reasonably strong fundraising, with $487,000 raised, but she needed to spend a lot in a strongly competitive primary. She had only $169,000 on hand after the primary. Walorski raised $1,725,000, with $1,109,000 still on hand after her own primary.
Hackett supports a fairly aggressive progressive agenda, which, during President Trump’s time in office, has become closer to the Democratic mainstream. For example, she supports phasing in Medicare for All over four years. “Immediately in the first year, eligibility would drop to 55 years old, then 45 in year two, then 35 in year three. All would be covered by year four. In the first year, all children would be covered. Vision and dental would be covered, and pharmaceutical costs would be negotiated,” she writes on her campaign website. — Bob Caylor
John McCormick, Wall Street Journal: “Trump or Biden? Vigo County’s President-Picking Record Is at Stake”
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.—If America’s nerves are on edge because of the presidential election, imagine the pressure of living in Vigo County.
The western Indiana county has backed the eventual White House winner in all 16 elections since 1956. While the county isn’t likely to affect the Electoral College math that picks the president, its record weighs on some Vigo voters’ minds.
Former Vice President Joe Biden ’s backers joke that he must win Vigo (pronounced VEE-go) because failure might jinx his outcome nationally. Those wanting President Trump re-elected worry that not carrying the county might be a bad omen.
FLASHBACK—Me, in POLITICO Magazine in 2015: Trump County, USA
The most accurate pundits in the history of American presidential politics reside far from the Beltway, on a 403-square mile patch of land along the western border of Indiana. At the intersections of U.S. Highways 40 and 41, and off Interstate 70, you find yourself in Vigo County, with its 108,000 residents and its ho-hum county seat, Terre Haute, situated along the Wabash River. Terre Haute is the land of Clabber Girl Baking Powder—and its citizens call it the “Crossroads of America.” It’s the place where both Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and labor leader and Social Democratic Party founder Eugene Debs were born, and home to the U.S. penitentiary where the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh died.
And, in nearly every presidential election since 1888, voters here in this blue-collar county have selected the winning candidate, missing only twice: Once, in 1908, when they opted for Williams Jennings Bryan instead of William Howard Taft, and again in 1952, when they chose Adlai Stevenson rather than Dwight D. Eisenhower.
“It’s obviously because of our extraordinary intelligence and good sense,” said Bayh, whose father built the family’s political dynasty here. “It’s classic middle America. Small businesses. Family farms. Community schools. We care more about common sense results than we do about party labels and ideology. … You don’t get the excesses of New York or California. We keep it between the 40-yard-lines.”
By me, POLITICO Magazine: “How Anti-Mask Politics Are Scrambling Indiana’s Governor’s Race”
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — Gunfire echoed and the acrid smell of burnt gunpowder filled the autumn air on a recent weeknight as a group of about 100 unmasked voters took turns firing on targets at Bare Arms Shooting, an outdoor gun range in this northern suburb of Indianapolis.
They arrived at this fundraiser to support Libertarian gubernatorial nominee Donald Rainwater, a candidate who was, until this summer, a total obscurity.