Last night in Zionsville Indiana, which is located in BOONE county, the three candidates for Governor took the stage for a debate. Mike Pence, Rupert Boneham, and John Gregg.
I thought it was a spirited affair…at least from two of the guys. I thought for most of the debate Mike Pence appeared as though he was on a sedative. I have to believe this in part was his strategy. Talk slow, say very little, utter road-map as often as you possibly can, make no mistakes, make no news, don’t engage. Now that strategy is one of someone who is confident to be ahead and is playing not to lose. But it is not without risk. Many analogies can be drawn about overconfidence and playing not to lose. The Green Bay Packers come to mind, both last season and last week. Once you start to lose momentum, it can be hard to reverse.
So when they were doing their debate prep in Pence World and they decided to adopt the four-corners offense, I am sure they were not thinking they would see a tweet from Pence’s chief editorial supporter, TIm Swarens at the Indy Star, tweeting: “Pence finally woke up, good closing statement”
That had to hurt.
He also committed a pretty glaring mistake. And it wasn’t a monumental gaffe, but it was certainly telling. In one answer, he was talking about a program and said it was “here in Hamilton County”. The trouble is Zionsville is in Boone County. And the mistake plays right into the narrative that the guy has ‘gone DC’ on us. If you live, work and play in Indiana, you know well in which county that Zionsville—one of the major affluent suburbs of Indianapolis—is located. If you live, work and play in DC, you tend to forget those details.
John Gregg was clearly the aggressor. He was sharp and on message. He hit where he should have hit: Auto company loans, War on Women, War on Teachers, bad attendance record. He connected on every punch. And Pence stood there and took almost every hit without engaging back. Again I think it was a mistake, because the folks who bothered to tune in are left with only one conclusion. He has no defense on those issues. And guess what, they would be largely correct.
Now Pence did hit back on John’s time as Speaker, and talked about a balanced budget, which is pretty rich for two reasons. One, he has been in Congress for over a decade. Lectures from members of Congress about deficits are ridiculous. Two, every budget passed when John Gregg was Speaker was balanced, (and bi-partisan, the Indiana Senate was Republican the entire time) because they have to be per the Indiana Constitution. We can’t print money, only the Feds can do that. There is no debt ceiling vote to be had in Indiana.
You know like the debt ceiling votes Mike Pence thought were okay to do until Barack Obama got in the White House, five of them I believe?
So the rope-a-dope strategy didn’t do so well for Team Pence. In fact, in the only measurement of people’s reaction that I saw, Pence finished 3rd behind Boneham.
So the campaign continues and John Gregg now has momentum. I hope the press starts to give this race the attention it deserves, because John Gregg is very talented and people have underestimated him. I have said all along I expect this race to be close and it is getting closer.