This great nation is now coming off of the Labor Day weekend, often thought of as the end of summer. Kids are back in school, summer road trips are a memory, and thoughts are turning to fall activities, including football season, leaf-raking and holiday planning. Those of us who operate in the political world know that, at least every four years, we can count on people turning their attention to upcoming elections ‒ particularly presidential, gubernatorial and U.S. congressional races. Election polls take on more meaning, since the general public is starting to pay closer attention.
Those of us who engage in the political world year-round begin to salivate at the thought that everyone is now interested in this arena, and the 2016 presidential election gives plenty to chew on. Republican nominee Donald Trump, despite efforts by his campaign staff, resists becoming more like a traditional candidate, and at times contradicts himself. Yet his nontraditional approach also appeals to the anti-establishment mood of the country.
Democrat Hillary Clinton, who by background and experience should be running away with this election, cannot seem to shake her past. Accusations of insider favors and questionable email activity have plagued her campaign virtually from the beginning. How else could Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Socialist, have fared so well in the Democratic primary race against Clinton?
Those of us who have been following these campaigns closely for well over a year wonder how the general public will respond to these two candidates. Or instead, will a third-party candidate make inroads? Just within the past couple of weeks, there is more information out about Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and his running mate, William Weld. Will the message of these two former Republican governors resonate with the general public? It could happen, considering that both Trump and Clinton are viewed unfavorably by many voters.
Here in Indiana, this year we have a U.S. Senate race that has seen many surprises and now pits U.S. Rep. Todd Young against Evan Bayh, former governor and U.S. senator. Young had been heavily favored ‒ right up to the time that Bayh entered the picture. The latest poll shows Bayh with a 7 point lead over Young. Yet Indiana still leans Republican, so the race may tighten up. Polling data certainly will be watched carefully.
The race for Indiana governor also has taken some turns. The John Gregg versus Mike Pence rematch got derailed when Donald Trump tapped Pence as his vice presidential running mate. The Indiana State Republican Party Central Committee was then tasked with finding a replacement for Pence and placed Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb on the ballot. Holcomb is not well known outside of inner political circles ‒ having only served as lieutenant governor since March ‒ and he has a short time to introduce himself to the public. Will it be long enough? Democrat Gregg appears to be running a much better campaign than he did four years ago. However, everything up until now has been like practice. The real contest begins following Labor Day.
Unlike the Indianapolis Colts, who can forget preseason losses once they start the official season next week, political candidates must build upon the foundations they have already laid. The difference is that more people will be following, and what happens from here until Election Day is what will matter the most. For those of us who are political junkies, it just doesn’t get any better!
– S. Joe DeHaven