I don't ordinarily publicize political flacks' press releases. But the following release, from backers of recently re-elected Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, strikes me as worthy of some note. Sure, it's self-promoting, but from what I know, it's also pretty factual. And, without saying so, it makes a case for Mitch Daniels as a possible presidential candidate. Daniels's experience is not confined to Indiana state government; he was George W. Bush's first director of the Office of Management and Budget, which gave him a fine overview of the federal budget and government operations, and served as an aide to Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar in the 1980s. Of course, Daniels's critics, opponents, and other observers are welcome to add their comments; this is just one side of the story:
Despite the anti-GOP hurricane force headwinds this election cycle, Governor Mitch Daniels not only won, he won big, 58%-40%. Hoosier voters sent a clear message they view Mitch Daniels as a change agent and reformer who gets results.
1. Daniels received more votes than anyone who has ever run for office in Indiana, netting 1,563,873 votes. This is more than previous high-water marks set by President Reagan, Bush, and U.S. Senator Lugar and Bayh. Daniels received 216,942 more votes than Senator McCain and 191,106 more votes than Senator Obama. He won throughout the entire state, not just in Republican leaning areas, winning 79 of 92 counties this year as opposed to 2004, where he won 73 and tied two against his incumbent opponent. Obama won 15 of 92 counties.
2. The race was called two minutes after the polls closed. Daniels even won in his opponent's rural home county by 2,873 votes, and in the county where she grew up.
3. Daniels received 24% of the Democrat vote, up 11% from 2004 and over-performed in traditional Democrat areas like:
- St. Joseph County (home of Notre Dame and where his 2004 opponent and the current Democrat Speaker of the House reside) losing by only 3,000 votes. Daniels received 7,665 more votes in St. Joseph County than McCain.
- Monroe County (the most liberal-leaning area in the state and home to Indiana University) losing by only 1,500 votes. Daniels received 7,320 more votes in Monroe County than McCain.
- Even the loss in Lake County (Chicago region) by 55,686 was erased by an 87,119 margin of victory in Hamilton County (northern Indianapolis suburb). In fact, Hamilton County 's margin was larger than the combined margins of all 13 counties Daniels lost.
- Daniels won southern Indiana by 57%. Southern Indiana is known as Blue Dog/Reagan Democratic territory and is currently represented in Congress by D-Rep. Baron Hill and D-Rep. Brad Ellsworth. Hill won re-election 57-38% and Ellsworth won re-election 64-35%.
- Daniels won every county in the blue collar UAW region (Howard, Grant, Madison, Delaware ), an improvement from 2004.
4. Daniels received 20% of the African American vote, up 13% from 2004. In 2004, Daniels lost Marion County (the state's largest county/Indianapolis) by 18,000 and won it this year by 48,000 votes. To further illustrate this over-performance, Daniels received 7,000 more votes in Center Township than he did in 2004, up 10%. Center Township is the heart of Marion County and is represented by D-Rep. Andre Carson in Congress. Daniels got 31.6% of the votes from African American majority precincts throughout Indianapolis. Daniels received 71,000 more votes in Marion County than Senator McCain.
5. Independent voters favored Daniels 57%-39%, a massive 38 point swing from 2004 when this group of ticket-splitters favored his opponent 58%-38%.
6. Daniels was supported on college campuses like Purdue University where vote centers increased county turnout. Daniels received 3,915 more votes in Tippecanoe County than Obama and 11,874 more than McCain. Daniels won both Delaware (Ball State University) and Vigo County (Indiana State University) in 2008, but won neither in 2004.
7. Daniels won every age demographic, including the 18-29 year-olds by nine points (51%-42%). 18-29 year-olds were 19% of the Indiana electorate in 2008, compared to McCain receiving 35% of Hoosier 18-29 year olds. Seniors 65 and older were his strongest demographic, supporting him by 36 points (67%-31%). This is a 19 point improvement over 2004, when Daniels lost voters 60 and over by two points (48%-50 %.).
8. The Daniels coat tails carried the two other statewide candidates by running television commercials with both candidates, conducting get-out-the-vote phone calls to "support the Daniels Team," and utilizing his campaign grassroots organization to turn out votes specifically for them. While Daniels won by nearly 500,000 votes, Greg Zoeller was narrowly elected Attorney General by just 38,865 votes and Tony Bennett elected Superintendent of Public Instruction by 50,944 votes.
How did Daniels win so big in such a tough environment?
Initially, many believed this race would be close because of the bold way Mitch Daniels governs. His opponent was a former Congresswoman supported by the Service Employees International Union, EMILY's List, the National Education Association, etc., and the investment President-elect Obama made in Indiana . Obama spent millions of dollars on continuous TV ads since the primary, employed hundreds of field staff, and visited Indiana nearly 50 times. His effort paid off, as he won the state, the first time a Democrat nominee has won Indiana since 1964. Lastly, the national mood was expected to be the worst it had been for Republicans since Watergate. Despite these factors, Daniels won re-election by 58% -40%. The Indianapolis Star newspaper headline read "not even close." So, how did he win so big?
1. Daniels talked about "change" in 2003 before "change" was cool. When first elected, he inherited a dysfunctional state government, hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. Since taking office, he has had only balanced budgets, the biggest tax cut in state history, telecom reform, ethics reform, and millions of dollars have been paid back to schools and local governments. Indiana is now the only state in the nation to have a fully-funded ten-year transportation plan with no debt or tax increase.
At the same time, Indiana has added 800 child case workers, increased the number of state police, and passed a long overdue state veterans benefits package. Indiana has the lowest unemployment in the region and a healthy rainy day fund, instead of the budget shortfalls shared by surrounding states. Despite strong resistance to a few aggressive proposals at the time, it was affirmed that Indiana is better off today than four years ago and better off than all surrounding states. Daniels proved results matter. Daniels talked about these real accomplishments and did not rely on slick D.C.-created direct mail pieces to share his message. These same accomplishments earned him and Indiana various national awards including Governing Magazine's "Public Official of the Year" award and the best Bureau of Motor Vehicles in the country.
2. Hoosiers made a connection with the governor ' s steadfast leadership and work ethic. Voters recognized his constant focus on attracting a record number of new and diversified jobs, dramatically reducing homeowner's property taxes, and the state's immediate, organized and effective response to the severe weather/record floods in the summer of 2008.
3. Daniels kept it real. He has remained in touch and accessible to average Hoosiers through constant statewide travel. His view is always from the taxpayer's perspective and that showed on Election Day. Voters came to appreciate his preference to travel the state on his Harley Davidson motorcycle and his insistence to stay overnight in Hoosier homes, not in hotels. It's no coincidence Daniels did not use campaign consultants, and personally wrote the scripts for all campaign commercials.
4. Daniels was supported by a formidable coalition of both typical and atypical interest groups. Because of his approach, he received backing by union building trades as well as the Chamber of Commerce, the Manufacturer's Association and the NFIB. The FOP and prominent veteran leaders were seen on TV ads pledging their support in their own non-partisan words. The International Association of Fire Fighters supported Daniels and Obama. African American leaders passed out Governor Daniels suggestion boxes to urban barbershops and hair salons. Fluent in Spanish, Daniels earned the support of traditionally Democrat Latino voters. The governor's 2004 opponent and a former governor himself co-chaired a bipartisan effort for one of Daniels' most important legislative initiatives. Even the losing candidate in the 2008 Democrat primary joined Daniels in an effort to raise funds and rebuild a historic covered bridge that had been destroyed in a storm.
5. Lastly, Daniels insisted on running a principled and positive campaign. His opponent ran all-negative-all-the-time. Daniels has run three campaigns and has not run one negative ad. Not only was this a positive vs. negative matchup, it was also a contrast of the future vs. the past. Daniels talked about reforming education and local government and permanently capping property taxes in a second term, while his opponent spent time and money on yesterday's issues such as observing Daylight Saving Time and the leasing of the Toll Road .
In Indiana, Governor Daniels has not only redefined how to run for governor, but more importantly, how to govern. His problem solving approach proves if you are courageous enough to see your vision through, good policy makes good politics and the big problems we face can be solved.
Mitch for Governor
- Read more by Michael Barone.