Political Chaos in Indiana Ahead of Trump Visit

Indiana is where Sen. Ted Cruz made his last stand against New York liberal Donald Trump, who is currently posing as a populist presidential candidate poised to formally seal his nomination as the Republican presidential candidate. Indiana gave Trump a key victory in May during its primary, leading Cruz to suspend his campaign after a streak of losses that accumulated since his Wisconsin primary win in April.

Today, the rather stayed order of Indiana GOP politics is being completely upended.

Donald Trump heads to the Hoosier state today for a fundraiser followed by a rally that will be held just north of Indianapolis.

For a couple of days now rumors have been swirling that Gov. Mike Pence (R), who is running for his second term as governor, will be Trump’s vice presidential pick. The Washington Times ran a story Sunday night based on what appears to be a single source pegging Pence’s chances of being the GOP veep nominee at 95%. The Hill repeated the Times report and other outlets have continued to publish speculation into this morning.

Erickson wrote on Monday that a corporate jet based in Pence’s hometown of Columbus, Indiana flew from Indiana to New Hampshire and on to New York before returning to Columbus by way of Indianapolis. The New York stop was near a Trump-owned property. The plane is owned by diesel engine giant Cummins, Inc. which vigorously fought against a religious freedom law that was debated, passed and then partially repealed in Indiana. Whether or not Pence was on board is speculation, but Indiana ethics rules do not forbid candidates or elected officials from using corporate jets for travel.

Sources tell me that inside Indiana the speculation that Pence is the vice presidential pick have reached fever pitch. Pence’s departure from the gubernatorial race would set off a scramble to replace him at the top of the state Republican ticket, and at least two incumbent members of Congress, the current lieutenant governor candidate, and the incumbent Speaker of the Indiana House are jockeying for support.

If Pence is the vice presidential nominee, he would be the first VP pick from Indiana since Dan Quayle, who was President George H.W. Bush’s vice president. Indiana has sent 5 of its citizens to the vice presidency, and only New York, with 11 native vice presidents, exceeds that number.

Democrats in the state are not without their own drama, however. In a sudden and surprise move, former Congressman Baron Hill, the Democratic nominee for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat, announced on Monday that he was stepping down from the race. He is to be replaced as the Democratic Senate candidate by former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, a pro-Clinton Democrat who fancies himself to be a moderate.

In a statement released Monday, Hill, who sailed through the primary without an opponent and who is now in the middle of waging a general election effort against GOP Senate nominee and Marine veteran Rep. Todd Young, blamed a lackluster response to his campaign message for his decision.

“While our campaign had been making great progress and building momentum all over Indiana, it is simply not enough to fight back against the slew of out-of-state, special interest and dark money that is certain to come our way between now and November.

“Democrats have a very real chance at winning this Senate seat, especially with a strong nominee who has the money, name identification and resources to win. I do not want to stand in the way of Democrats winning Indiana and the U.S. Senate. That would not be fair to my party or my state. And, the stakes are far too high in this election not to put my country above my own political ambitions.”

Bayh, who was a two-term Democratic governor before representing Indiana in the U.S. Senate from 1999 to 2011, appears to believe he can swoop into the Hoosier State and foist his own political ambitions on his party and voters without having to spend time earning votes in a primary. In 2008, Bayh, who early on explored running for president himself, endorsed Hillary Clinton in her race against Barack Obama.

The ambitious and arrogant ex-Senator currently resides in Georgetown – well inside the Beltway and well outside of Indiana – and works in at a K Street firm. According to a Washington Business Journal report:

“The former Democratic senator from Indiana, now a partner at the K Street office of McGuireWoods, said he would have been just as happy staying in Spring Valley. But with their two kids off to college, the big six-bedroom, Georgia-style brick home was more than the couple needed.”

At least he was concerned with downsizing even while refusing to return to Indiana until he found it opportune to elbow aside his own party’s nominee.