Is this how it ends for Trump in Indiana? Not with a bang, but a whimper of official statements from Hoosier Republicans distancing themselves ever so slightly from the embattled President?
For more than four years, Indiana received more than its share of the white-hot glare of the national media's klieg lights, thanks to its outsized role in the Trumpian cinematic universe. Trump barnstormed the state in April of 2016, before winning the state's May primary and dispatching his only remaining candidates—Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich—from the field. Leading up to that primary, he said: "Now Indiana is becoming very important … you folks belong where you belong; it's called Importantville, right? I love it," Trump said.
Then, two months later, outside the Governor's Residence on Meridian Street and at the Conrad Indianapolis and then at Grand Park in Westfield, Trump auditioned several candidates for his veep, before settling on Vice President Mike Pence. In turn, Pence stocked the Cabinet and administration with nearly three dozen Hoosiers in key positions, from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
During his time in office, Trump visited Indiana seven times—more than any other sitting president who didn't hail from the state, making three stops in Indianapolis as well as visits to Elkhart, Evansville, Fort Wayne, and Southport. Republican polls here basked in—and bragged about—that spotlight.
US President Donald Trump shows a signed order rejecting the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty as he speaks at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 26, 2019—his last visit to the state. (Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Now, the siege of the U.S. Capitol incited by Trump, and his offering up of his vice president to insurrectionists who wanted to hang him cast a pall over that historical connection.
Now, Indiana’s status as Importantville is ignominious.
You could tell it by parsing some key figures’ statements and actions in the Trump era here.
Here's Attorney General Todd Rokita, who, after tweeting his undying support for the President last Friday, felt it necessary to issue a clarification on Saturday: It was only a test, he said, to see whether he would be banned by Twitter. It is never a good thing when a politician's emailed public statement comes with a subject line that ends with these five words: "…Statement on His Tweet Last Night."
"As most know, I have been a supporter of the President and his policies," Rokita said. "Yet also like most, I am not a strong supporter of any human being."
Here's Rep. Larry Bucshon: "This breach was an attempt to force the Congress to overturn an election for which the rioters did not like the result. An insurrection against the Federal Government. Unfortunately, earlier in the day, President Trump, in a speech on the National Mall, incited the crowd to do just that. President Trump said, 'We are going to the Capitol' to 'try and give them the pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.' I cannot condone this dangerous rhetoric by the President. Words have meaning, and many of the President's supporters took him literally, resulting in the attempted insurrection."
Bucshon and Sen. Todd Young are the only two Indiana Republican members of the delegation who have made statements laying culpability for the siege at the feet of the President. "Of course," Young told The Indianapolis Star. "He's president of the United States."
A spokesperson for Sen. Mike Braun, who changed his vote after the Capitol and decided to support the Electoral College certification, didn't respond to a message asking whether Braun thought Trump was culpable for the attack.
Rep. Jim Banks, the Republican Study Committee chairman who before the election called Trump the best President of his lifetime, issued a letter titled "Where We Go From Here" to his fellow committee members last Friday: "The Republican Study Committee will lead the fight, meet this moment with boldness, and usher in a new era of the conservative movement on Capitol Hill," it read. The document was absent of any mention of Trump.
Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer’s letter to his party last week was also bereft of any mention of Trump. He did, however, write this: “Vice President Mike Pence is one of those leaders. He’s a man who has a strong faith in God and belief in America. And without a doubt he has shown great leadership and courage over the last four years, never more so then over this past week. Violence and mayhem cannot and must never be used as tools to push an agenda. Whether that's violence in Indianapolis, small-town Indiana, or our nation's capital, violence isn't who we are. It's un-American and runs counter to our republic's very foundation.”
Fiery embers of the Trump era remain in Indiana. The night of the siege, someone shot up the Tippecanoe County Democratic Party headquarters. “The act of violence against the Tippecanoe County Democratic Party headquarters is alarming and continues the dangerous escalation of violence against political organizations and American democracy itself,” John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, said in a statement. “However, I fear that this act of violence will not be a one-time incident. I implore all local and state leaders to come together and condemn this violence now so we can prevent further violence from happening across Indiana - and we will carry and fight on as Democrats.”
Indiana's corporate community is moving away from Trump, too: Eli Lilly's Political Action Committee yesterday announced they would suspend donations to the four House Republicans from the delegation who voted against certifying the Electoral College vote: Banks, Rep. Jim Baird, Rep. Greg Pence, and Rep. Jackie Walorski.
DRIVING TODAY: Will any Republican Indiana members of the U.S. House vote to impeach the President? It's unlikely, I'm told by Republicans familiar with the members' deliberations. Closer to home: Gov. Eric Holcomb unveils his budget proposal.
Sen. Todd Young, who will be key to his fellow Hoosier’s confirmation process, met with Transportation Secretary-designate Pete Buttigieg yesterday.
Sen. Mike Braun has also met with Buttigieg, but Braun’s office declined to give a readout of what they. discussed.
Rep. Victoria Spartz is casting partial responsibility on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for the Capitol Siege. “Please advise what processes were directed by you to provide enhanced security for the Joint Session of the House and Senate in the House Chamber in light of the known and anticipated major public demonstration on January 6th,” Spartz wrote in a letter to Pelosi last week.
21 QUESTIONS FOR 2021
Here are 21 questions that will shape Indiana politics in 2021—and guide my reporting along the way.
1. What will Mike Pence do to earn money following his vice presidency, and will it happen in Indiana? 2. Can he win back support from Trump’s base following last week’s events at the Capitol? 3. Can Hoosier Trump administration officials find jobs in the post-Trump era? 4. Who will lead the Indiana Democratic Party in 2021? 5. Will former campaign aides to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign help rebuild the Indiana Democratic Party? 6. Will former Sen. Joe Donnelly land a spot in the Biden administration? 7. Will former Ambassador and Indiana Congressman Tim Roemer land a spot in Biden's administration? 8. Who will Democrats put forward to run against Sen. Todd Young in 2022? 9. Will Young get a primary challenger? 10. Who will Democrats run for Secretary of State in 2022? 11. How many times will Transportation Secretary-designate Pete Buttigieg visit Indiana for official Department of Transportation events, if confirmed by the Senate? 12. Will Attorney General Todd Rokita and Gov. Eric Holcomb find themselves at loggerheads on any issue this year? 13. Will the Indiana General Assembly pass Covid-era liability reforms for businesses? 14. Will the Indiana General Assembly pass any significant policing reforms? 15. Will Indiana’s 2021 redistricting require a special session to complete, given that the U.S. Census Bureau says the data required won’t be available until April? 16. Will Indiana Common Cause’s plan for non-partisan 2021 redistricting shape the process—or matter at all? 17. Will Reps. Jim Banks, Jim Baird, Jackie Walorski, and Greg Pence regain their political standing with corporate donors like Eli Lilly following their votes against Electoral College certification? Will their actions on Jan. 6 be a distant memory by the time they are up for re-election in 2022? 18. Will Indiana’s gaming commission scandal ensnare more big names? 19. Will Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett find a way to turn around his difficult 2020 ahead of a possible gubernatorial run when his term ends in 2023? 20. Will the NCCA Tournament go off without a Covid outbreak as Indiana hosts March Madness, and will it give the state a much-needed economic boost? 21. Will Rep. Victoria Spartz gain more national headlines for her role in “the Force,” a conservative counterweight to the Democratic “Squad?”
Me, Indianapolis Monthly: “What Does The Future Hold For Mike Pence?”
“I think Mike and Karen’s first response will be to spend some time, probably try to get away, and just spend it in prayer,” McIntosh says. “They really try to feel in each case in public life, to do what they believe God is calling them to do. People can say that and then go on and decide what they want to do. What I know about Mike and Karen is they very sincerely do spend time to really seek and feel that calling. And I’ve seen them decline things. Like people wanted him to run for president in 2016 and also in 2012. And in both cases, he declined to do that because he just didn’t feel led spiritually to run.”
By Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, “Pence Reached His Limit With Trump. It Wasn’t Pretty.”
Mr. Trump was enraged that Mr. Pence was refusing to try to overturn the election. In a series of meetings, the president had pressed relentlessly, alternately cajoling and browbeating him. Finally, just before Mr. Pence headed to the Capitol to oversee the electoral vote count last Wednesday, Mr. Trump called the vice president’s residence to push one last time.
“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told him, according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.”