As the Indiana Democratic Party prepares to convene its convention on Friday, there's a lot to be smiling about if you're a Democrat. While there's a lot to smile about, there's also lots to be concerned about, too.
Let's begin with the smiles. It appears that Joe Donnelly is off to a good start in the Senate race and has political operatives like Karl Rove concerned. Rove and his PAC launched an ad offensive in Indiana this past week to try to buoy Richard Mourdock's fortunes in the early going. It's still early, but this race remains in focus nationally. Remember, Dan Coats was leading Brad Ellsworth by major numbers by this time in 2010. This one is going to stay close, I think.
Last week, Mike Pence officially accepted the nomination for Governor of Indiana on the GOP side. Last week, John Gregg spent a lot of time on the earned media trail trying to define Mike Pence before he had a chance to do so. He has Pence's attention. Now, Gregg has to pivot this week and begin to define his own message.
Now, to the concerns, and let's begin with Gregg. While Gregg has gone out of his way to define Pence, I think he now has to, as several others have pointed out, start to define his differences with him. He cannot win this race as the anti-Pence. John Gregg has some views that are similar. He must make the case to Hoosiers that he has different ideas about state government. If I were him, I'd play up my time as Speaker of the House when 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats were there. That meant that he had to compromise to get things done. I think that's the direction he needs to start. Follow that up with specific policy plans that differ from Pence's, and I think that Gregg will have an excellent opportunity.
As a Democrat, I must admit that I remain concerned about the position of the Indiana Democratic Party. My views on the Chair situation have been well-documented here on my blog, and the party finds itself with no statewide offices now. Also, with the way the districts were drawn in the Indiana House, it would seem that Democrats will struggle to keep the number of seats they have now. There are tremendous opportunities in the Senate, but it's going to take a while to win the 13 seats needed to tip the majority back to the Democrats.
So, I will go to Fort Wayne, and I will be blogging on Friday night and Saturday night from Indiana's second-largest city (providing the internet works in my hotel room). We will see what happens and what comes out of the convention. It appears the statewide ticket for the D's will include three women as well as John Gregg with Vi Simpson, Glenda Ritz, and Kay Fleming joining him as Lieutenant Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Attorney General candidates, respectively.
As always, it's going to be an interesting time for political junkies in Indiana.