Saturday, July 5, 2008

Crafty Indiana Chamber Begins Parallel Gubernatorial Campaign

Kudos to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce for being some devious weasels. The Chamber announced that it’s issuing a series of “Letters to Our Leaders,” with the first coming out next Tuesday.

According to Cam Carter, the chamber’s VP for small business and economic development, the eight letters are actually issue statements. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, without having seen the format or content of the same, falls all over itself to say that the letters should “serve as a model for a variety of interest groups to encourage constructive discourse in the contest between Governor Mitch Daniels and Democratic challenger Jill Long-Thompson.”

Pay attention here, class. Ipopa is going to teach you about “controlling message.”

Suppose a candidate knows she can win an election talking about job loss, declining healthcare coverage, children dying in the public welfare system, and educational problems. Suppose further she can win by bashing the bejesus out of the current administration who has presided over this state of affairs.

That candidate will likely want to unveil her ideas one at a time and travel the state with each positive proposal while she (or a third-party) is clubbing the current administration as job closing after job closing is announced. This campaign is nice and orderly, and the media would likely receive each idea set forth as “fresh news” from the candidate.

But let’s say the Chamber of Commerce makes a huge push around the state to get newspapers aware that IT is going to issue its OWN policy statements over a period of weeks. When each of those statements come out, what will happen? The papers will want to know the candidates’ positions on each of issue. If JLT does not respond, it will look like she’s not ready or informed, or both. If she does respond fully with her own ideas, she cannibalizes her own future press coverage to be part of someone else’s story.

This is why the Chamber is ingenious. They have put themselves in a position to dictate the order in which events are rolled out, and they know it. If you do not believe this is a carefully orchestrated political strategy to assist Mitch Daniels (whose positions will essentially mirror those of the Chamber), ask yourself why all eight issues cannot come out at once, just like Richard Lugar's “Letters to the Next President.”

In addition, here's what gets Daniels defeated: bad news. How do you innoculate yourself from "bad news?" You make it somehow unseemly to even TALK about the bad news without a twenty-page policy proposal. Look at the last paragraph from the Journal-Gazette, a paper that is from JLT's home area:

The worst scenario for the campaign season would be one in which the rhetoric outweighs responsible discussion, in which sound bites and gratuitous attacks overwhelm the key issues affecting Hoosiers. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce has done voters a favor by setting the bar high – others should follow its lead.

I'd say, "Mission Accomplished" to the Chamber on setting the "tone" of the campaign, and they haven't even released their first letter.

Oh, I forgot to add that Cameron Carter, the apparent architect of the plan, gave Mitch Daniels $2,500 on October 10, 2007. That donation is probably .025% of what Daniels will receive from Chamber member corporations and their executives.

As an ancillary benefit, the Chamber also neatly puts other Democratic affinity groups, such as organized labor, on the defensive by forcing them “to answer” as well. Yes, I know. You’re saying that if other groups can’t defend their beliefs and positions in writing, shame on them. But remember that apparently until now, the Chamber hadn’t had anything in writing to offer to this robust civil discourse that are trying to create either.

Yeah, yeah, I know. The AFL-CIO, Hoosier Environmental Council, or other Democratic affinity groups could have thought of this strategy last year and put Daniels on the defensive.



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