Opinion and Forefront

BECK: Republicans received no mandates

November 17, 2012

BeckIt’s over. Another election has come and gone. If you live and breathe politics, I hope by now you have become reacquainted with loved ones, joined a gym, and planned a vacation.

If your life is not governed by election cycles, you might be wondering what impact, if any, the 2012 election will have on the Hoosier State. The obvious, of course, is that no longer will we be subjected to the endless parade of TV ads or the silly partisan rancor on Facebook.

So how will Indiana fare? Here are a few post-election musings:

1. A super-majority doesn’t necessarily mean good government. Republicans in the Indiana Senate held on to their super-majority and Republicans in the Indiana House picked up enough seats for a super-majority. With this new power, it’s anyone’s guess how far the Republicans will go to push their agenda.

Without checks and balances, it’s likely we’ll see more—not less—extreme social issues taking center stage. So much for jobs and the economy.

2. It was not a decisive win for Mike Pence. While congratulations are in order for the governor-elect, a four-point victory had to be a little too close for comfort. Many in the Republican Party expected a coronation, but that wasn’t the case when the numbers came in.

Some might contend that Pence was weighed down by Richard Mourdock’s comments on rape or that John Gregg’s ads featuring Pence’s Tea Party views chipped away his lead from early polls.

3. Debates do matter. (See the Mourdock reference.)

4. The Tea Party can’t be happy. The Tea Party took a beating. Mourdock fell to Democrat Joe Donnelly. Christina Hale defeated incumbent Cindy Noe by a handful of votes. Others in the Tea Party barely squeaked by in key races. Most notable was Jackie Walorski, who some thought was destined to win the 2nd Congressional District seat big, beat newcomer Brendan Mullen by only one percentage point. Scott Schneider, another ardent Tea Partier, narrowly defeated Tim DeLaney. Pence, who welcomed the Tea Party to Washington with open arms, had a four-point margin.

Victories? Yes. Mandates? No.

5. Don’t discount the power of teachers, or of education reform. Perhaps the biggest upset was Glenda Ritz beating incumbent Tony Bennett for the state superintendent of education job. I’m not sure when or why teachers became the enemy, but they fought back against Bennett’s actions. At the same time, a slate of education reformers was elected resoundingly to the Indianapolis Public School board. It will be interesting to watch how Ritz and the new members of the IPS school board influence the education of our children.

6. Marion County Democrats delivered. Led by Chairman Ed Treacy and strategists Joel Miller and Adam Kirsch, the Marion County Democrats ran an effective ground game that elected strong candidates to office. Claudia Fuentes made history as the first Latino elected to countywide office. Congressman Andre Carson’s campaign ran an unprecedented get-out-the-vote effort and won with a decisive 62 percent in his new district. And President Obama carried Marion County with 60 percent of the vote.

7. Don’t hold your victory party at a football stadium. Planning election night festivities for your party is daunting. Holding it in Lucas Oil Stadium backfired for the Republicans. It was a disastrous visual for the folks at home, as only a handful of glum faces were visible in the stands. While it was a bold choice, it just didn’t translate well for those not inside the campaign bubble.

The election is over. But will there be repercussions for Hoosiers? Absolutely.•

Beck served on the staffs of former Mayor Bart Peterson and former first lady Maggie Kernan. A resident of Irvington, Beck owns the strategic communications firm Beck Communications. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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