The Gun Nut Primary—RV sales slump—Buttigieg to IA & NH

Plus: "Despite some irresponsible rhetoric of many in the mainstream media, the American economy is strong," Vice President Mike Pence told the Detroit Economic Club today.

Days until the 2020 election: 442


Elkhart, Ind., is flashing a warning sign that a recession could be just ahead.

Capital of the country’s recreational-vehicle industry, the northern Indiana city and the surrounding area are watched by economists and investors for early indications of waning consumer demand for luxury items, often the first sign of economic anxiety.

IMPORTANTVILLE TAKE: Look for a parade of Democratic presidential candidates to use Elkhart as a backdrop for coming campaign visits to make a point about what they say is an economy on the brink of recession.

On CNN's State of the Union yesterday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who governs in Elkhart’s back yard, told Jake Tapper: “There’s a big debate going on right now over whether we're on the cusp of a recession. I think we probably are, but the more important thing is even during an expansion most Americans haven't been able to get ahead. That is a huge problem, and the president has made it abundantly clear that he doesn't care.”

Good Monday afternoon, and welcome to IMPORTANTVILLE.

WHERE’S VEEP? In Detroit to deliver remarks at the Economic Club luncheon.

WHERE’S PETE? Buttigieg is back in South Bend today after a South Carolina swing.


The week ahead so far:

  • Tuesday: Pence chairs the 6th Meeting of the National Space Council. Buttigieg heads to Chicago for a grassroots fundraiser. Rep. Jim Banks joins Republican Whip Steve Scalise for the annual Banks Wagyu BBQ at Joseph Decuis Farm in Columbia City.

  • Wednesday: Buttigieg heads back to Iowa for a NARAL town hall and a Federation of Labor State Convention.

  • Thursday: Indy Politics releases a poll of the Indianapolis Mayor’s race.

  • Friday: Indiana Democrats travel to French Lick for the annual IDEA Convention. Buttigieg begins a two-day swing in New Hampshire.


Here are two soundbites from two different Indiana Republican elected officials on the gun control debate within the last week. See if you can guess who said each one:

Soundbite one:

“This is the moment. When you have two incidents like that in the same weekend, I think conservatives and Republicans lose in the long run if we don’t do something to change the dynamic.”

Soundbite two:

“Democrats seeking to talk about guns instead of criminals in the face of spiraling crime rates is akin to blaming the car and not the driver in a crash.”

Soundbite one sounds like it might come from an urban Republican who knows his party needs to act to not only protect Second Amendment rights, but also to continue to appeal to voters in the suburbs.

Soundbite two sounds like it comes from a rural Republican with a lot of support from the NRA.

What if I told you the reverse is true? ANSWERS: The first soundbite came from Sen Mike Braun. The second came from State Sen. Jim Merritt.

The latter soundbite is giving fodder to Marion Country Democrats, who are assailing Merritt for his stance on guns. On Saturday, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, who rarely gets involved in national issues, joined the nonpartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group focused on advocating for tighter gun control.

IMPORTANTVILLE TAKE: The Hudnut Primary—a month-long contest within a contest to see which candidate was more like the former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut—has turned into the gun nut primary, in which the Hogsett camp is trying to undercut Merritt’s argument that Hogsett has failed to make the city safer. Their method: Point to his voting record on guns. Whether that gains traction with voters, who at this point are barely paying attention to the race, remains to be seen.


A new and improved Capitol & Washington is back.

The website, created and curated by Trevor Foughty, is the Baseball Reference for Indiana Politics: A database of every Hoosier politician (approximately 9,000 as of 2019), every election result (over 1,300 across more than 80 different years), every office holder and the length of their tenure, plus insightful analysis on the state’s political history.


IN GOP: Congressmen and combat veterans Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Brian Mast (R-FL) and Jim Baird (R-IN) will be the special guests at the 2019 Team Holcomb Fall Dinner on October 14 at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.


Glenn Thrush, New York Times: “Obama and Biden’s Relationship Looks Rosy. It Wasn’t Always That Simple.”

IMPORTANTVILLE TAKE: The piece provides a good look at why Evan Bay didn’t land a spot as Obama’s veep.

The talk later in the day with Mr. Bayh, who was vacationing at the tony Greenbrier resort in West Virginia with his wife and young children, did not go well. The visitors caught him barefoot, emerging from a shower — and assumed it was an attempt to appear Kennedyesque. In reality, Mr. Bayh was less diffident than disoriented by being thrust into the national spotlight.

Mr. Bayh had another major liability. Mr. Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, had advised Mr. Obama that picking Mr. Bayh would guarantee his Senate seat would flip Republican — which could imperil the new president’s legislative agenda. Mr. Biden’s seat in Democratic Delaware was much safer.

By Shane Goldmacher, K.K. Rebecca Lai and Rachel Shorey, New York Times: “The 5 Days That Defined the 2020 Primary

Back in January, Anthony Mercurio, who leads Mr. Buttigieg’s fund-raising operation, had set up alerts to buzz with every new donation. It was more than manageable. After all, Mr. Buttigieg was the virtually unknown mayor of South Bend, Ind., and had started exploring a run with an email list of only 24,000.

Mr. Buttigieg’s first break came on Valentine’s Day, when he appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” in his signature rolled up white shirt sleeves and blue tie, pitching a new generation of leadership. Donations leapt from less than 100 contributions per day to more than 1,600.

Then came Mr. Buttigieg’s CNN town hall on March 10. Mr. Mercurio’s phone exploded with “so many ActBlue notifications.” He turned them off that night.

Rachel Bitecofer, Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy: “Pete Buttigieg's Only Problem with Black Voters is They Don't Know Who He Is

Low name recognition also inhibits our ability to yield valid insights about how the low name ID candidates are performing among sub-populations in the data. Like net favorability, simply dropping respondents who don’t know the candidates is not a valid work around to this issue. Which is why it is inaccurate to say that Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and to a lesser extent, Kamala Harris, are struggling to attract black voters. Like with voters overall, much of the Democratic field still remains a mystery to black voters, a large portion of whom have yet to tune into the process. And it should be noted that black voters have higher rates of “don’t know/heard of, no opinion” than voters overall. 12% of black Democratic primary voters report “don’t know/heard of, no opinion” for Biden and 14% report the same for Sanders. The lesser known candidates have significant name recognition issues among this subpopulation. Warren is at 37% Kamala Harris 35%, and Pete Buttigieg a whopping 62%! That’s right, just 38% of black Democratic primary voters in Morning Consult’s tracking survey even know who Pete Buttigieg is.


Listen to the IN Focus podcast here.

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Can Buttigieg Win the Iowa Caucuses?

“We are building a fantastic team on the ground here in Iowa that wants to get to know you, mobilize our supporters, get the message out far and wide," Buttigieg said Tuesday.

By Adam Wren and design by Kris Davidson

DES MOINES—When he arrived here by public transportation Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg had the Iowa State Fair all to himself, with none of his 20 or so fellow Democratic candidates inside the fairground’s 445 acres. He used the next four hours to woo voters and eat “practically everything,” according to Eater.

But when it comes to winning the state’s Iowa Caucuses next February, Buttigieg faces a much more crowded landscape. And he’s getting a relatively late start in the state compared to other top-tier contenders such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who boasts 75 staffers and 12 offices throughout the state. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are building strong organizations on the ground, too.

Still, in the last two weeks, Buttigieg has used his $25 million second-quarter fundraising haul to bring his staff total to 60 in the state, according to the Associated Press. His campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl, recently parachuted into the state for a four-day trip to build out Buttigieg’s operation here. According to the Des Moines Register’s candidate tracker, Buttigieg isn’t among the top 10 Democrats who have visited the state the most this cycle, ranking 15th even though he’s put on 41 events over 24 days. Warren, Harris, and Sen. Bernie Sanders rank above him, though Biden has only held 26 events over 14 days. Unlike Harris, Buttigieg also isn’t up on the air yet with television ads or splashy endorsements.

But on Tuesday, Buttigieg, the first Hoosier since Evan Bayh in 2007 to campaign in Iowa, did his best to make his own mark here, began a three-day campaign swing across the state. He rolled out a policy plan for rural America.

IMPORTANTVILLE, along with Indianapolis Monthly, is the first and only Indiana news outlet to cover Buttigieg’s campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire. Paid subscribers to the newsletter made the trip happen. If you want more original reporting on Hoosier politics, including Indiana’s 2020 gubernatorial and Congressional races, as well as exclusive reporting on the Indianapolis’ mayoral contest, you can subscribe below. You can subscribe to Indianapolis Monthly here.

At the fair, Buttigieg drew a large Tuesday-afternoon crowd to the Des Moines Register Soap Box, a fair tradition where presidential candidates get 20 minutes to deliver a shortened version of their stump speech and answer questions from voters.

“We are building a fantastic team on the ground here in Iowa that wants to get to know you, mobilize our supporters, get the message out far and wide—and with your help, we will not go on his show and play his game, we will change the channel completely,” Buttigieg said, referring to President Donald Trump. “Can I look to you for help in doing that?”

Later, he cast his kernel in WHO-TV’s kitschy and unscientific corn-kernel voting, a ritual more indicative of general enthusiasm for a particular candidate than it is an accurate measure of their standing in the state.

By Wednesday, Buttigeg ranked second behind Biden, with 17 percent of the vote to Biden’s 23 percent. The stakes for Buttigieg in Iowa are high: His campaign has said it is a state similar to Indiana, one who should do well in. New Hampshire, though, is potentially a better state for him to win.

The old Iowa saw goes something like this: There are only three tickets out of Iowa. Buttigieg needs one of those tickets. Right now, according to RealClearPolitics, he’s running outside of the top three, at fifth, in a national average of polls. “Running around the country to 18 different states and feeling like you’re a front-runner may feel great, but with the field this big, it gets back to this: Go beat Biden in Iowa or take second,” Joe Trippi, who ran Howard Dean's insurgent Iowa campaign in 2004, told Rolling Stone this month. “Do whatever that takes. Live in small towns in Iowa.”

After leaving the State Fair, Buttigieg headed to southeast Iowa. There, six of the seven counties he’ll visit flipped from supporting Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016.

It was Buttigieg’s 11th trip to the year, and sixth in as many weeks—a sign that the 2020 race for the presidency is heating up. Buttigieg has five months to win over the hearts of Iowa voters, and appears to have a stomach for the long haul. After ordering a root-beer float on Tuesday, he quipped to reporters: “More pork tenderloin for me.”


  • Here’s a list of everything Buttigieg ate Tuesday: A root beer float, a pork chop on a stick, a sausage sandwich, a bacon ball BLT, fried Oreos, chocolate milk, and . patriotically colored slushy.

  • By far the most dark but quintessentially Iowa exchange I witnessed Tuesday was when Buttigieg encountered a woman who claimed to have shaken Bobby Kennedy’s hand in 2016. “So you’re good luck?” he replied. “Not really—he was shot a month later,” she responded. Buttigieg tried to explain the significance of Indiana’s May 1968 primary to the women, but it didn’t register.

  • I asked Buttigieg which state had better tenderloins, Iowa or Indiana. His answer: “I gotta stick with my home state.”

  • It was hard not to notice the difference between how Buttigieg entered the fair, and how Donald Trump did so in 2015: One took public transit, one took a private helicopter.


You can listen to the IN Focus podcast, hosted by Dan Spehler, from this week here.

That’s all for today. Did someone forward this to you? You can subscribe here.

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