Chairman Hupfer with (hair on fire) columnist
From my “lamestream media” perch things sure do look dicey and dangerous. There’s that 36-page coup d’etat Powerpoint titled “Election Fraud, Foreign Interference & Options for 6 Jan” that President Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows gave to the House Jan. 6 Committee.
The Atlantic’s Barton Gellman writes that “Trump’s next coup has already begun.” According to Gellman, “If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.”
Veteran GOP operative Steve Schmidt describes “the obvious edge of the abyss into which we are staring. A great crisis isn’t just at hand, it is underway. We are living through its early days.”
NBC’s Meet The Press Daily observes: “Today prominent GOP candidates are running campaigns based on waving the bloody shirt of a stolen election. Sixty percent of the party’s voters believe the blood is real when it’s actually fake. Republicans in several states are trying their best to make sure those local officials who protected the election from false fraud claims won’t be there next time.”
And CNN’s Chris Cillizza was alarmed when commentator Hugh Hewitt told Trump, “You know, Mr. President, you and I disagree about the election, but we agree on so much.”
Cillizza went on: “Talk about an ‘other-than-that-how-was-the-play-Mrs. Lincoln?’ moment! That Hewitt uttered that line without irony is a telling window into how conservatives have found ways to rationalize Trump and his fundamentally anti-democratic attempts to undermine the faith of the American public in the 2020 election results.”
So when I sat down with Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer at Biscuits in Broad Ripple Monday morning, I made sure the waitress supplied enough coffee and ice water in case my hair spontaneously became ablaze.
I asked Hupfer about that 60% of Republicans who believe in Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” about the purloined 2020 election.
“I don’t see it persisting,” Hupfer calmly said. “It may be persisting on the edges out there, but the vast majority of Republicans have moved past that concept. They are looking to 2022 and they know how critical it is. We have to win back the House and Senate. That’s all I hear at RNC meetings and out across the country.”
Hupfer said that “2020 is in the rearview mirror,” adding, “The focus is on 2022. We’ve got to win back and House and Senate.”
What about the House Jan. 6 committee, Hupfer said, “I’m not following it,” Hupfer said of the Bennie Thompson Show starring Republican Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. “I know they’re having some meetings and hearings,” Hupfer said. “I try to have as little of contact with what’s going on in Washington, D.C., as possible. It’s all being politicized at this point. It’s all about the latest hot take, the latest hot tweet.
The chairman is focused on pocketbook issues. “Inflation was up 6.8% in November,” Hupfer said. “It’s going to be the issue. You have an administration and Congress who are tone deaf about that. They’re still talking about the Build Back Better plan which would be another couple of trillions of dollars infused in. The federal government cannot buy or spend their way out of whatever these perceived issues are right now.”
As for Mike Pence running for president in 2024, Hupfer explained, “I don’t know whether the premise is whether Trump runs or doesn’t run impacts his decision. I’ll let the vice president answer those questions.”
“As you look around the country and the work he’s doing, Republicans like himself are not focused on 2024, they are focused on 2022,” Hupfer said. “He’s out raising money for candidates in 2022.”
Hupfer noted recent internal GOP polling in Indiana that had Gov. Eric Holcomb’s job approval at 65%, and on the COVID pandemic, 66%. That polling showed President Biden’s Indiana approval at an anemic 41%.
As for 2024, Hupfer says it’s still too early for him and Gov. Holcomb to reveal their political plans. Speculation is rampant that the chairman is eyeing a gubernatorial run; Holcomb rekindling his U.S. Senate ambitions.
“There’s the right time to make a decision on that,” Hupfer told me. “It will probably come in the not-too-distant future. The governor gets these same questions a lot and the answer we both tend to give is we’re not taking anything off the table. The governor certainly is not. Just in the short history, sometimes planning on these things is a fool’s errand, right? There was a lot of planning going on in 2016 only to be thrown into the wind when Mike Pence was chosen to be the vice presidential candidate with Donald Trump. There’s a lot of changing moods and politics, and when it’s the right time, I’ll make that decision.”
Our conversation ended. There was no smoke wafting in the air; just the steam rising off our cups of Folgers.
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.