The new Indiana Republican Chair took the seat at a trying time for his party. Noticeable cracks are beginning to show between the social conservative wing of which Pence and Cardwell are members and we’ll call it the Mitch Daniels wing of the party. That’s not to say Mitch isn’t conservative, but it just seems like the battle lines are being drawn.
Bill Oesterle, a former Daniels insider, stepped down from his seat at Angie’s List to, according to media sources, become more “civically involved.” Matt Tully opined that it might be to help redirect the Indiana Republican Party others have thought it might be to run for Governor.
My blogging colleague over at Advance Indiana, Gary Welsh, believes Pence has been the unwitting victim of a Mitch Daniels silent takeover. He says the flames of the RFRA mess which have weakened Pence were inflamed by local media and others loyal to Daniels.
Daniels, after all, could reemerge after his stint as President of Purdue University. He could return to the Statehouse after a four-year hiatus from politics. The Indiana Constitution allows former Governors to serve two consecutive terms but allows them to return if they sit out a term. Some other folks saw Eric Holcomb’s candidacy for Senate as a signal that the party may turn back to those loyal to Mitch.
You can’t really blame the Republicans. Daniels' term seems like it was years ago after just three years of Mike Pence. While Daniels was dragged into the Right to Work battle at the Statehouse, he really tried to avoid other types of controversy when he was in the Governor’s Office. He certainly would have found a way to kill RFRA without the damage that we’ve seen doled out, and he had the General Assembly pretty firmly under his control. From day one, Pence’s relationship has not been nearly as good as Daniels’ was with the legislature.
If the Indiana Democratic Party plays this right, they can be the big beneficiary. Dems need to be pouncing and giving Republicans an alternative before they turn back to Pence or Daniels. To me, that means begin to identify key 2016 candidates NOW and get them out and about. The Democrats at the state level have to make it a priority to chop down these supermajorities on one side of the General Assembly or another.
That brings us back to Jeff Cardwell. If I were him, I’d post “Gone Fishin” on my hardware store door and let this all play out. My feeling is that he can’t do that. He owes a lot to Mike Pence, and I think he will sink with him.
The soap opera continues!