What we learned from Tuesday’s election

2. Hoosiers are ready to turn their back on the auto industry. President Obama preserved Chrysler and General Motors. There are now 5,000 jobs in Kokomo that would have been liquidated and GM has added shifts at Fort Wayne, Marion and invested heavily at Bedford. But Indiana Democrats offered no defense of Obama’s work on behalf of his auto strategy during the campaign. And Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who fought the Chrysler-Fiat merger until it lost at the U.S. Supreme Court, led the Republican ticket in Kokomo and Howard County (home to the largest Chrysler cluster) and was the state’s top vote getter at 1,042,758 votes.

3. Within minutes of Dan Coats’ political resurfacing on Groundhog’s Day, Indiana Democrats assessed and assigned a tag to him: Lobbyist. Hoosiers didn’t buy it. It simply didn’t resonate. By a resounding 55-40 percentage, he defeated U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, returning Coats to the U.S. Senate he left in 1998. Painting Coats as a lobbyist was the overwhelming crux of the Ellsworth campaign and it didn’t work. Voters saw him as a trusted former senator and ambassador who was able to make peace with the Tea Party tribes.

4. You can win elections without going negative. Gov. Mitch Daniels orchestrated his Aiming Higher PAC that gave House Republican challengers $1.5 million with a series of TV ads that contrasted the GOP’s opposition to the 2009 biennial budget House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer tried to pass, but spared the personal smear. Helped by the national wave, House Republicans picked up at least 11 seats for a 59-41 majority, with the Wendy McNamara/Bob Deig race hanging in the balance by eight votes. Democrats tried to paint pharmacist Steve Davisson as an abortion pill pusher, Matt Ubelhor as a poisonous coal miner, and Jud McMillin as a devious prosecutor. All won House races.

5. This is the definition of pornography: “The depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.” That’s what negative TV ads and mailers have become: political porn. Politicians of integrity – like Daniels, Sen. Dick Lugar, Gov. Frank O’Bannon and Lee Hamilton to name a few – have never used it.

6. Gov. Daniels will not look, act or be perceived as a “lame duck” in his final two years in office. He now has a 37-13 “super majority” in the Indiana Senate and at least a 59-41 margin in the Indiana House. He will seek a frenetic reform agenda beginning in January (see my column last week) on education and government reform. Sometime after the General Assembly signs off – between April and June – he will take a long hard look at the presidential race.

7. U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh’s 11th hour retirement was a disaster for Democrats. The party lost his Senate seat, the 8th CD seat Brad Ellsworth gave up, possibly the Indiana House seat Trent Van Haaften gave up, and Deig’s Indiana Senate seat. Bayh gave out $1.5 million of his $12 million war chest to Ellsworth and Indiana Democrats and sat on the other $10 million, fueling speculation he will run for governor. But many Democrats believe he stepped away from the bus that flattened those left behind.

8. U.S. Rep. Mike Pence is a GOP rising star. He raised and gave away $1 million to Republicans across the country and donated $28,500 to Indiana House candidates. He stumped tirelessly for Indiana congressional and legislative candidates. He announced on Wednesday that he is leaving his U.S. Republican House conference chair, fueling speculation he will come back home to run for governor, though he and his brain trust will take a hard look at the wide open 2012 presidential race.

9. Hoosiers could find themselves with a marquee gubernatorial showdown in 2012 between Pence and Bayh, though neither is tipping his hand.

10. Marlin Stutzman, the 3rd District congressman elect, will be sworn in next week, giving him a huge jump in seniority over the 60 or so other incoming U.S. House freshmen.

11. Indiana will have five new Republican members of Congress: Coats, Stutzman, Todd Young who defeated U.S. Rep. Baron Hill, Todd Rokita in the 4th CD, and Dr. Larry Bucshon in the 8th CD. All of them say they want to repeal the health reforms and cut spending, Hoosiers will be watching.

12. Indiana voters are bipolar. In the past decade we’ve tossed out a sitting governor, a sitting Senate President Pro Tem, five members of Congress, the Indiana House has switched parties three times, and voters canned nearly half of their mayors. They’ve backed two Republicans for president and one Democrat. For those just elected to office, congrats. Keep one eye on the future and the other over your shoulder.

(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com)

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