Special Edition: Hoosiers react to Mueller report—Young's monster NRSC haul—IN GOP's Pete Problem—Buttigieg to Dyngus Day

What's happening—and what's next—at the intersection of Indiana politics and business?

By Adam Wren and design by Kris Davidson

Days until Indiana General Assembly Sine Die: (9?)

Days until the Indy 500: 37

Days until the 2019 election: 200

Days until the 2020 election: 565

EXEC. SUMMARY: Hoosier politicos react to the Mueller report. Pete Buttigieg is headed back to South Bend for Dyngus Day. Plus, a look back at his entry into Indiana politics. And Todd Young raised a ton of money for the NRSC’s 2020 Senate cycle.

HOOSIERS REACT TO THE MUELLER REPORT

Vice President Mike Pence:

Today’s release of the Special Counsel’s report confirms what the President and I have said since day one: there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and there was no obstruction of justice.

After two years of investigation, conducted with the full cooperation of this Administration, that involved hundreds of witness interviews and millions of pages of documents, the American people can see for themselves: no collusion, no obstruction. 

Now that the Special Counsel investigation is completed, the American people have a right to know whether the initial investigation was in keeping with long-standing Justice Department standards — or even lawful at all. We must never allow our justice system to be exploited in pursuit of a political agenda.
 
While many Democrats will cling to discredited allegations, the American people can be confident President Trump and I will continue to focus where we always have, on advancing an agenda that’s making our nation stronger, safer, and more secure.

Sen. Mike Braun:

Attorney General Barr kept his promise and provided as much transparency on the Mueller report as was consistent with the law, which I strongly supported. Indeed, the report is unprecedented in its level of transparency.

President Trump provided unfettered access to his campaign’s records and his personnel to clear his name and now the American people deserve to know how this groundless investigation into the Trump campaign was launched in the first place.

Now that the report is public, it is clear there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign and that President Trump did not engage in obstruction of justice. It’s time for the country to move forward and focus on real issues like delivering solutions to lower the cost of healthcare and keeping our red hot economy roaring.

Rep. Jim Banks:

No collusion. No obstruction. Let’s get back to work, @SpeakerPelosi!

Rep. Andre Carson:

I'm still working through the #MuellerReport, but one thing is becoming clear: AG Barr's analysis this morning isn't matching up with what's in the document. The legality and the morality of the President's actions are still very much in question. Americans need to know more. 

South Bend Mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, on Morning Joe, prior to the report’s release:

The Mueller report is a disturbing if not completely surprising collection of evidence that shows a president putting his own interests ahead of the country’s. Today again demonstrates why we need to change the channel in 2020.

Good Thursday afternoon and welcome to IMPORTANTVILLE. If you just recently subscribed, thank you. I started this newsletter one year ago this week in hopes of providing readers a closer look at the increasingly important role Indiana plays on the national stage.

Two years ago, on the eve of clinching the Republican nomination here, then-candidate Donald Trump stood at a rally in South Bend and told an audience: “Now Indiana is becoming very important … you folks belong where you belong; it's called Importantville, right? I love it,” Trump said.

Now, the mayor of South Bend is running for president against Trump, and has arguably joined the top tier of candidates.

If you’re a longtime subscriber, feel free to tweet out a link to this edition with the hashtag #IMPORTANTVILLE. I’ll be giving out 12 lifetime subscriptions to celebrate the first 12 months of the newsletter, and will pick the 12 best tweets. Winners will be announced next week.

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WHERE’S VEEP? He joined the president for a Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride event this morning in the East Room.

WHERE’S PETE? At 12:35 a.m. Friday, he’ll appear on “Late Night with Seth Meyers.” Then, he’s headed next to New Hampshire for Friday and Saturday events.

CRAZY PENCE BOOK TEASE FROM TOM LOBIANCO: The former Indiana reporter’s book, “Piety and Power: Mike Pence and the taking of the White House,” comes out in September. Pre-order here.


HOW PETE BUTTIGIEG IS FRUSTRATING REPUBLICANS

When former Vice President Joe Biden fell ill with laryngitis last August, he left Illinois Democrats without a headline speaker for their annual Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association brunch. His last-minute replacement: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, an up-and-comer at the time, but a figure then nowhere near Biden’s star power.

In his speech, Buttigieg called President Trump a “disgraced game show host” and branded Vice President Mike Pence “a social extremist, the likes of which our country has not known in national politics.” In retrospect, it’s not hard to see how Buttigieg was refining his messaging for what would later become his stump speech on the presidential campaign trail.

“We have found a way to get to our future,” Buttigieg told those gathered. “Not through nostalgia, not through resentment. I didn’t go around saying we were going to bring back Studebaker jobs or Make South Bend Great Again. Obviously it wasn’t just me. You did not see me or anyone else in our city going around beating our chests, saying things like ‘I alone can fix it.’ Don’t trust anybody who says ‘I alone can fix it.’ Bullshit.”

For many in the room, it was the first time Buttigieg surfaced on their radar. But for Indiana Republicans back home, it was the first time Buttigieg warranted a brushback pitch. “Rarely-in-South Bend Mayor Buttigieg left Hoosier Hospitality at home,” Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer wrote in an email to supporters shortly after the appearance, adding that Buttigieg was “unhinged.”

Until last week, that was oddly one of the last times we heard from the Indiana GOP about Buttigieg. (Meanwhile, though, their federal counterparts at the Republican National Committee issued a statement saying that Buttigieg was the mayor of the “most dangerous city in Indiana” and noted that South Bend “residents would rather him fix the town’s countless potholes than waste time running for president.”) But state party allowed Buttigieg to rise virtually unchecked—a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by high level Hoosier Republicans I’ve spoken with in recent days. During his breakout CNN Town Hall in March, for example, there was no rapid response operation in place to refute Buttigieg. Granted, it was relatively early in his rise from one-percenter to top-tier candidate. It’s enough to fuel speculation—which is incorrect, top Republicans tell me—that Buttigieg might parachute out of the 2020 race to challenge Gov. Eric Holcomb in the 2020 gubernatorial race. (Buttigieg would look somewhat opportunistic to drop out of the presidential race four days after the Iowa caucuses to make the Feb. 7 deadline to run for governor. In response, Buttigeig’s campaign said the candidate is “running for president.”)

Read more here.


BUTTIGIEG RETURNS TO DYNGUS DAY

To truly appreciate Buttigieg’s rapid rise, it’s worth recalling that Buttigieg’s first foray into politics came just 13 short years ago at Dyngus Day, the Polish holiday where he’ll return on Monday.

The first real Indiana campaign Buttigieg worked was former Sen. Joe Donnelly’s 2006 congressional bid. At that time, he came to Donnelly as an alum of Harvard University—but not quite yet a Rhodes Scholar—to ask him if he could help advise him on policy and write position papers.

Donnelly took a shine to him, and wanted Buttigieg to write policy proposals and position papers, but had a more pressing need. “July 4 is coming up,” Donnelly told him, “and what I need you to do is to carry balloons in a parade for me.”

Ultimately, Buttigieg and two others, including Donnelly’s own son, attended the annual lawn mower races in Twelve Mile in Cass County on the candidate’s behalf. Buttigieg and a few other volunteers filed into an old Datsun and made the trip. “Pete was sitting in the passenger seat like a hostage,” Donnelly recalled recently. “It’s the little things.”

Four years later, Donnelly introduced Buttigieg to Democratic voters as the candidate for treasurer in South Bend at Dyngus Day, a Polish holiday heavy on the beer and kielbasa held the Monday after Easter.

His schedule, per the campaign:

11:30 A.M.: Solidarity Day Drive Street Renaming

Location: Intersection of Ford Street and South Warren Street, outside the West Side Democratic and Civic Club, 617 South Warren Street

11:45 A.M.: Dyngus Day Drive Street Renaming

Location: Intersection of West Western Avenue and Laurel Street, outside LaSalle Landing Lodge #298, South Bend Elks, 1001 W. Western Avenue

Noon - 12:30 P.M.: West Side Democratic Club

Location: 617 South Warren St, South Bend, Indiana 46619


YOUNG RAISEs $7.54 MILLION FOR 2020 SENATE CYCLE

Sen. Todd Young announced that the National Republican Senatorial Committee had the best March fundraising total in history yesterday, raking in $7.54 million.

Young and the NRSC will need every bit of that money to defend a tough map in 2020; there are 22 Republican Senate seats compared to just 12 for Democrats. Democrats only need to gain four seats for a majority.

That comes on the heels of Monday news that the Trump campaign and RNC raised $30.3 million overall in the first quarter and now has $40.8 million cash on hand.

“The Senate Republican Majority is working hard and delivering results, and the American people are noticing,” the NRSC chair tweeted.

Cam Savage, Young’s general consultant told me: “Senator Young’s colleagues chose him to lead the NRSC’s fundraising efforts this cycle because they know his deep policy knowledge on a range of issues like trade, tax policy, entitlement reform and national security, combined with his relentless work ethic, make him one of the party’s best fundraisers. This combination of policy expertise and Marine Corps determination appeals to donors across the country and that’s why he’s already setting records.”


AROUND IMPORTANTVILLE

  • A memorial service for former Sen. Birch Bayh will be held Wednesday, May 1, 2019, at noon EDT in the south atrium of the Indiana Statehouse.

  • CNN looks into the police tapes case in South Bend.

  • Buttigieg has $6.4 million cash for the second quarter, according to FEC reports.

IMPORTANTVILLE READS

Michael Hobbes, Huffington Post: “Pete Buttigieg Was An Effective Mayor — With A Gaping Blind Spot

Like many residents of South Bend, Indiana, Laura Jensen has known Pete Buttigieg for years. In 2012, just after he was first elected mayor, Buttigieg started visiting the preschool where she worked. He would walk the halls and read books aloud to her students.

It was a nice gesture, but what really impressed her were the quieter, more technical fixes Buttigieg made behind the scenes. In 2018, Buttigieg allocated $100,000 of South Bend’s budget to early childhood education and asked Jensen, by then the CEO of the local United Way chapter, how he should spend it. She told him that the county had recently been awarded some federal grants and needed to expand its capacity to take advantage of them. It may not have been the sexiest policy in the world, but Buttigieg agreed to spend the city’s funds on hiring teachers and expanding classrooms.

“I can’t tell you how much it meant to have someone listen when we said we had to build our capacity,” Jensen said. “It was never about ego. It was always, ‘I want to know your thoughts.’ That was huge.”

Harry Enten, CNN: “Why the press may overestimate Pete Buttigieg's support

News junkies are more than familiar with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. After all, the articles on him (such as this one) from the national media seem to keep at a brisk pace. He's now a clear number 2 in cable news mentions. But why?

Part of it has to do with Buttigieg's differentiating biography and rise in the polls. Indeed, well-informed voters like him, and his Google searches picked up before the media caught up.

I would caution, though, that Buttigieg's core support may position him to seem more popular to national media than he actually is.

The problem for reporters is that even the best one's opinions about the horserace are shaped by the environment surrounding them. This is especially the case early in primaries, because polling is far less predictive than it is in general elections. The people who surround national media reporters are right in Buttigieg's wheelhouse.

Tim Miller, The Bulwark: "The Kiss: What Mayor Pete means for America."

Holy crap, they kissed.

I was absentmindedly scrolling through my Instagram live stories a few weeks ago. That rote escape from the garbage that awaits on the rest of the phone: Baby Pic. Thirst Trap. Celeb Live Vid. Another Baby. Beach Scene. Fuzzy Concert Vid, Food Porn, Another Thirst Trap, Selfie. Dog. Political Speech. Kiss.

Wait. Kiss?

I stopped the scroll, holding down the image with my thumb to get a longer look. A reporter I follow had captured the image from maybe ten yards away.

The kiss itself wasn’t anything particularly noteworthy, as far as kisses go. It wasn’t Al and Tipper tonguing down in Los Angeles. Or hot Instagram stars trying to lure more followers to their account. Nor was it a perfunctory peck on the cheek or the forehead. It was quite simply a married couple, lips locked, arm around each other’s shoulder.

What stopped me wasn’t the kiss, but the kissers. They were both men and one of them is Pete Buttigieg, candidate for president of the United States.

THE SUNDAY SHOW

On this Sunday’s edition of IN Focus: Interviews with Sen. Todd Young, Rep. Andre Carson, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch. Panelists: Tony Samuel, Elise Shrock, Mike Murphy and Peter Hanscom. Airs at 8:30am on CBS4, 9:30am on FOX59.

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