Importantville: Hale Exclusive, Buttigieg’s Iowa Closing Sprint, And Braun On Impeachment
Good Tuesday morning, and welcome to IMPORTANTVILLE. I’m headed to Iowa later this week for the final sprint to the caucuses.
Democratic 5th Congressional District candidate Christina Hale announced another record-setting fundraising haul in her bid to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks yesterday, raising more than $269,000, leaving her with $420,000 cash on hand—an amount that dwarfs her Democratic and Republican rivals.
Hale has been pocketing national endorsements from advocacy groups left and right, but you have to squint to see the outlines of her policies; so far, she’s campaigning as a generic, feel-good Democrat. Her campaign is a Rorschach inkblot test.
On Monday, I interviewed Hale in hopes of getting her on the record on a wide range of issues. The result is her most substantive interview to date. (Her answers have been edited for length.)
On impeachment: “I absolutely believe we need a fair trial to review the facts to find the truth. Regrettably, our country truly is divided, and there are so many opinions and there’s so much confusion about what did or didn’t happen that I believe that the sun needs to shine on the evidence that we need to hear testimony from witnesses, and the American people deserve access to the facts and you know, I said it earlier, my dad was a prosecutor and he taught me that no one was about the law and he taught me about due process and what a fair trial means and, and that’s what I think we need in this instance.”
On whether she’s supporting the Democratic Medicare for All plan: “I’ll say this: Private insurance is working for a lot of people in this district. I support an option.”
On whether she’ll take a pledge to reject corporate PAC money: “I strongly support campaign finance reform. I don’t make campaign pledges on anything.”
On whether she would support the Green New Deal: “Climate change is real. I support a number of initiatives to lower our carbon emissions. There are pieces of the green new deal I would support. Investing and attracting clean energy jobs and infrastructure, for example.”
On Trump’s decision to take out Solemani: “Solemani was a dangerous source of a number of harmful actions that have negatively impacted American interests. First and foremost we have to focus on preventing Iran from getting a nuclear Middle East. The JCPOA was the best opportunity to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”
On why she’s running: “We’ve got real problems right here in Indiana and stakes are high for working families. I’m really good at getting things done for people.”
IMPORTANTVILLE TAKE: Hale will start rolling out more substantive policies over the next month, she told me. So far, she’s besting a largely undefined Republican field that one Republican consultant described to me as “Disasterville.”
THE WEEK AHEAD
WEDNESDAY: 5th District Candidate Kelly Mitchell kicks off her campaign at The Green Room at Federal Hill Commons in Noblesville at 6:30 p.m. Vice President Pence visits Sioux City, Iowa. Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg campaigns in Jefferson and Webster, Iowa.
THURSDAY: Pence embarks on an Iowa bus tour, participating in a Keep America Great Rally in Des Moines later that night. Buttigieg holds town halls in Decorah, Independence, and Marshalltown.
FRIDAY: Buttigieg holds a town hall in Davenport. The Indiana GOP’s Congress of Counties opens. Panels include “Understanding Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & More,” by Holly Lawson, “Campaign fundraising,” with Mindy Colbert, and “Diversity: The Art of Thinking Independently Together,” with Danny Lopez and Whitley Yates.
THE PETE BEAT
The former South Bend Mayor released his closing ad in Iowa yesterday: “It’s Time to Turn the Page.” The campaign is spending their final days blasting texts and emails to donors raising the possibility of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders winning the nomination, but failing to beat President Donald Trump.
A taste: “Bernie Sanders is raising tons of money, he’s surging in the polls, and he has dark money groups attacking his competitors,” read one recent email. “If things stay steady until the Iowa Caucuses in just nine days, Bernie Sanders could be the nominee of our party.”
Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, released this statement on Monday:
“As matter of policy we don’t typically share or discuss conversations between the President and Vice President, but given the journalistic fury over alleged conversations, the President has given me permission to set the record straight. In every conversation with the President and the Vice President in preparation for our trip to Poland, the President consistently expressed his frustration that the United States was bearing the lion’s share of responsibility for aid to Ukraine and that European nations weren’t doing their part. The President also expressed concerns about corruption in Ukraine. At no time did I hear him tie aid to Ukraine to investigations into the Biden family or Burisma. As White House Counsel presented today, based upon testimony provided by Democrat witnesses in the House hearings, these were the only issues that the Vice President discussed with Ukrainian officials — because that’s what the President asked him to raise.”
- Former Speaker of the Indiana House and State Rep. Pat Bauer will not run for re-election. “It has been an honor to serve the people of St. Joseph County in the state legislature,” he said. “What I will clearly miss the most is the interaction with all of the local residents who have been so kind and helpful through the years. By working together, I truly believe we have made St. Joseph County, and Indiana, a better place to live.”
- Democratic State Rep. Karlee Macer also announced she would not be running for re-election.
- Republican 5th Congressional District candidate Micah Beckwith raised only $9,000. He has only $37,000 cash on hand, down $20,000 from the previous quarter. He also filed three amendments with the FEC, after IMPORTANTVILLE reported that he accepted more than $9,000 in illegal contributions from corporations.
- Republican 5th Congressional District candidate Dr. Chuck Dietzen raised $108,000 and loaned himself $120,000.
- State Sen. Karen Tallian, who is pursuing the Democratic Party nomination for attorney general, picked up the endorsement of the United Steelworkers District 7.
Charles Pierce, Esquire: “Mike Braun Appeared Out of Nowhere to Join Trump’s Impeachment Fire Brigade”
“Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, heretofore has been the very model of a modern nondescript senator. He’s in his first term. He has left no footprints on any major issue. No important legislation has his fingerprints on it. His seat is considered to be a safe one. And he is from Indiana, which is the home of our current vice president, and which was very happy to be rid of him as governor. Somehow, though, over the two weeks of the impeachment trial here in the Senate, Braun has emerged as one of the most prominent defenders the president* has among his jurors. He has been omnipresent in media gaggles and on television. He is not as obviously thirsty as Josh Hawley. He is not as sought-after in the hallways as Lindsey Graham. But he is always around and always willing to rise to the president*’s defense.”
Gabriel Debenedetti, New York Magazine: “One of These People Could Beat Trump, Right?”
Buttigieg, who’s drawn some of the state’s biggest crowds, is the only candidate whose theoretical path to the nomination essentially relies on a win in Iowa, or maybe a close second-place finish — preferably behind Warren or Sanders, against whom his strategists think he could be an attractive alternative. “I don’t think it’s essential that he wins, but I do think it’s pretty essential that he do well, especially now that expectations are raised,” Virginia representative Don Beyer, Buttigieg’s first Capitol Hill endorser, told me shortly before he flew to Iowa to canvas after yet another poll showed Buttigieg toward the top of the field there. But Beyer is strategically underselling the importance: Buttigieg is close in Iowa, yet is far enough behind in national polls that he absolutely needs a boost from the first caucus to continue entertaining even a long shot at the nomination.
One result of the campaign’s decision to focus on Iowa and recently New Hampshire is that he hasn’t built up as much of an organization in some Super Tuesday states as some of his rivals. He recently swung through Texas for three days of private fund-raisers, for example, but he did no public events. And while Buttigieg began advertising in Nevada in December, and in recent weeks has made a more concerted push to woo black voters in South Carolina, practically speaking, it’s all in on Iowa. A strong finish in the caucuses, his Iowa state director Brendan McPhillips told me, would “expose him to a lot of new people in other states who are waiting to see who’s out of the gate. That resets the campaign.” Given that Buttigieg stands barely ahead of Michael Bloomberg nationally, he needs that reset, which campaign aides for months have quietly compared to Obama’s path in 2008.
Gabby Orr and Darren Samuelsohn, POLITICO: “MAGA stops, TV and the pope: How Pence plans to sidestep impeachment”
Apart from Trump himself, few politicians have as much to gain or lose over the next few weeks as the man second in line for the presidency. Though the outcome of Trump’s trial has appeared preordained for weeks — conviction and removal from office would require an unrealistic 20 Republican defections— potential witnesses and new evidence released by House Democrats last Tuesday could entangle the vice president in a mess he has deliberately tried to sidestep as he considers a White House bid of his own in 2024.
Days until the Iowa caucuses: 6
Days until the New Hampshire primary: 14