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Incumbent Daniels holds lead over Long Thompson

John Tierney | Friday, October 31, 2008

With Election Day looming, incumbent Republican Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has opened a 12-point lead over Democratic challenger Jill Long Thompson, according to a Research 2000 poll released October 25.

Long Thompson, who narrowly defeated Jim Schellinger by less than a percentage point in the Democratic primary, also trails in campaign contributions, having raised about $4.5 million in 2008 compared to Daniels’s $8.4 million, according to the Indianapolis Star.

The difference in campaign funds has been a major factor in the election, according to adjunct professor of American Studies and political analyst for the South Bend Tribune Jack Colwell.

“He’s been on TV since March and they’ve been consistently good spots, positive spots,” Colwell said. “She had to turn off her TV [ads] for most of September and October, which left him running almost unopposed.”

The close presidential race in Indiana has also hurt Long Thompson’s chances to win, Colwell said.

“People in Indiana aren’t focused on the governor race because of the presidential race,” he said. “The governor race hasn’t created much of a stir at all. When she couldn’t be on TV all the time, that’s what really hurt her.”

In the South Bend area, some of the biggest issues in the election are the Indiana Toll Road and Daylight Savings Time, according to Colwell. Despite Daniels’s double-digit leads in statewide polls, “there has been some vulnerability in this area because of the Toll Road and Daylight Saving Time,” Colwell said.

The state leased the Toll Road to a private corporation for 75 years. This corporation has recently raised tolls on the Toll Road, but the South Bend area hasn’t seen any of that money.

“A lot of the money that he got up front for that lease has been used for projects in other parts of the state,” Colwell said.

Long Thompson has said that she would not favor further privatization, according to Colwell.

Daniels was responsible for adopting Daylight Savings Time in 2006, Colwell said.

“People are still kind of displeased about that,” he said. “It’s too bad that the time to change the clocks is this Sunday.”

As governor, Daniel claims “strong leadership and pro-active business-minded skills,” according to his campaign’s website. He created the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, which is designed to attract new jobs to the state.

Daniels also created the state’s Office of Management and Budget in 2005 to help increase efficiency and savings in state government. He balanced the state’s budget for the first time in eight years in 2005 and has continued to balance the budget throughout his time in office, according to his campaign

The claim of getting the first balanced budget in eight years is somewhat disputed, according to Colwell. Daniels claims that the state was “bankrupt” when he assumed the governorship. However, this is not entirely accurate, because the state constitution prohibits the state from going into debt.

“He did get a truly balanced budget,” Colwell said.

If re-elected, Daniels will be most concerned with property taxes and education in 2009, according to his campaign. He wants to pass a constitutional amendment that will make the current caps on property taxes permanent. He is also proposing tax rebates that will automatically send taxes unused by the state – provided that the budget is balanced and that the state has enough money saved in its “rainy-day fund” – back to the taxpayers.

On the education front, Daniels has proposed requiring schools to work through the state to buy certain supplies. The proposed coordination would allow the schools to save money because the state would negotiate the purchases in bulk.

Daniels is also proposing a plan that would give Indiana residents $6000 tuition discounts for their first two years at an Indiana college.

Daniels has served as governor since being elected in 2004, when he defeated Democratic incumbent Joe Kernan. Prior to his election, Daniels served as Director of the Office of Management and Budget in George W. Bush’s first administration. In this role, he helped negotiate the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and helped the United States respond to the Sept. 11 attacks on a domestic level, according to his campaign Web site.

From 1993 until 2001, Daniels was employed by Eli Lilly and Company, serving as President of North American Pharmaceutical Operations. He previously served as CEO of the Hudson Institute, a non-profit think tank that was then based in Indianapolis.

Long Thompson represented Indiana’s 4th Congressional District in the House of Representatives from 1989 until 1995. She was defeated by Mark Souder in the Republican’s huge electoral gains in 1994.

Long Thompson was then appointed as Undersecretary of Agriculture in Bill Clinton’s administration, a position she held until 2001. After leaving the public sector, Long Thompson served as CEO of the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy.

As a representative, Long Thompson voted against tax increases, but was a supporter of education, Medicare and Social Security, according to her campaign.

Long Thompson is campaigning mostly on the job that Daniels has done in his first term in office, according to Colwell.

“Long Thompson has suggested that he has not done a very good job, particularly with the economy and job creation,” Colwell said.

Long Thompson has used the economy, Colwell said, to tie Daniels to President Bush by talking about the “Bush-Daniels economy.”

“Maybe that’s fair because when he ran for the first time, he ran as ‘My Man Mitch,’ which was a direct quote from President Bush,” Colwell said.

Long Thompson is blaming Daniels for the federal budget deficit, because when he became Director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2001, there were record surpluses that quickly turned into record deficits, according to Colwell.

With only a few more days until Election Day, it will be difficult for Long Thompson’s charges of Daniels’s ties to Bush to change the outcome.

“He’s probably going to win,” Colwell said.