Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana Republican Party just can’t seem to quit making the big mistake. And this time in his surprising promotion to the national ticket, he left his state party and his hand-picked successor a parting gift worse than the proverbial lump of coal.
Let me explain.
On Tuesday, the Republican state central committee replaced him on the ballot. They replaced him with Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who Pence publicly endorsed four days earlier. It took the committee two ballots to follow Pence’s recommendation, because they had Congresswoman Susan Brooks as an available option.
Most politicos who are engaged in Indiana state politics agree that Brooks was the stronger candidate. She has the potential of attracting some of the women supporters Pence has lost back to the GOP. She has a resume of success as a former U.S. Attorney, and has actually been elected and reelected to congress. Oh, and the kicker: she not only can raise money, she currently has money.
Democrats wanted to run against Mike Pence this fall, and I believe they would have beaten him. When Donald Trump picked Pence to be his VP, Indiana Republicans celebrated for two reasons. First, they had one of their own further up on the ticket. But it is undeniable that they were excited about replacing him as a candidate for governor.
In replacing Pence on the ballot, campaign finance was a consideration, which is why New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie chimed in on Brooks’ behalf Monday. Most Hoosiers asked: “who cares what he thinks?” The answer is: the Republican Governors Association. The reason that matters is because the RGA had promised to spend a fortune on reelecting Pence, and without RGA money, Pence was getting beat at the money game by challenger John Gregg.
So the state central committee could have thumbed their noses at Pence and nominated Brooks on Tuesday. They really, really should have. Because shortly after the committee’s decision on Tuesday afternoon, they found out the really bad news: much of Mike Pence’s war chest of campaign funds cannot be used by anyone in this race this year.
Now the bad decision the committee made around midday, is a whole different kind of mistake. Holcomb was the only legitimate candidate who didn’t have any money of his own. And it is very unlikely that Holcomb will be able to raise as much money as Pence suggested (and Holcomb reinforced) would be available to him–and only him.
In politics, money often follows name ID and polling; and Holcomb has neither.
Whose fault is this? It starts with Pence and state GOP chairman Jeff Cardwell, but after that, there is a little bit of blame to be shared by a party that has gotten complacent with their control of state politics.
The missteps are piling up.
It started in December when former Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann left the team. That hurt Indiana at the time, but her presence these last few weeks could have made a monumental difference for them.
Replacing her with Eric Holcomb in March seemed politically risky to me, again at the time. And what has turned out to be a great opportunity for him personally, it appears to have been a mistake for the party. Statistically, Republican polling showed him down eight points to John Gregg over the weekend, and now with a looming financial crisis for his campaign, that number likely appears to be even more insurmountable.
The Federal Election Commission rules that govern the Pence campaign funds as a result of his VP nomination are complicated and attorneys will argue over them. However, they will not likely be lightly enforced like Indiana’s state laws were in the Todd Young matter.
Remember the insufficient petition signatures that Congressman Todd Young gathered to get his name on the ballot in his Senate campaign? If not for the bipartisan makeup of the Indiana Election Commission, he wouldn’t even be on the ballot this year.
Tuesday was an indicator of a group that has lost its grip on the details. And the leaders of the group, Pence and Cardwell, are the ones who need to answer for that.
Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States of America. These kinds of lapses in leadership are reasons why he should lose.
He really did give a good speech last week at the RNC. Actual governing is so much harder.