By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
Republican leaders locally and across the state shared a common message at the Republicans of Floyd County’s Reagan Day Rally — they have 52 days to energize their base to take back Congress and the executive branch.
Five leaders spoke to about 50 supporters Saturday morning about what they thought would help get the country and the state back on track.
Richard Mourdock, the state’s treasurer and republican candidate for U.S. Senate against Democrat Joe Donnelly and Libertarian Andrew Horning, said in terms of the presidential race, he thought President Barack Obama’s widely criticized “you didn’t build that” comment shows that he’s out of touch with the country and his ideas about increasing tax rates on the highest earners in the country.
“That statement told me, too, that Barack Obama doesn’t understand America and he doesn’t appreciate the potential of capitalism,” Mourdock said. “It’s not an evil force.”
He said this November’s election is a choice of two visions for the county — one of American exceptionalism and another of what he described as the European model that demands more of citizens as government grows.
But he said he thinks the Republican Party has a “secret weapon” in its ability to mobilize its supporters like it did in 2010 and in the May primary election.
Todd Young, who is seeking re-election to Indiana’s 9th district in the House of Representatives against challenger Democrat Shelli Yoder, said he’s optimistic for America’s future, but not without some concerns.
“Now when I look into the future, however, I pause,” Young said. “I’m not pessimistic because I think we have the ability to do the very same thing Americans have always done. I pause because there are two visions competing for the future of this country.”
He said he thinks the Republican agenda puts its trust in the American people while Obama’s holds the private sector and private individuals responsible for some of its economic woes.
But he also criticized the president for his stimulus package from 2009, as well as his approach to health care reform, government regulations on business and support of tax increases on “the very people that will get us out of this mess.”
But he said he still has hope for the country.
“You cannot staunch the spirit of the American people,” Young said. “I still believe in the American people, I know you still believe in the American people. These stories I’ve told today can either define America’s future as they have defined America’s past, or they can become long-lost relics of a once-great nation.”
Tony Bennett, who is seeking re-election as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and will face Democrat Glenda Ritz, said his approach to education reform has garnered a lot of negative attention, but he thinks the results have proven themselves.
He said with 85.7 percent of Indiana high schoolers graduating and an 8 percent overall rise in state test scores, those two things show what the changes to the public school system have done.
“Some of you probably go to Little League parks, go to church or social events with teachers and you’ve heard this line: ‘Tony Bennett is out to destroy public education …’” Bennett said. “If that was what we ran on and what we tried to do for four years, we have failed.”
He also said the work of Rhonda Rhoads, Indiana’s representative for the state’s 70th district and Ron Grooms, Indiana State senator for the 46th district, helped set the agenda for education reform in the state, but faced tough opposition.
“The toughest thing they had to do was go home and face stacked town hall meetings by the teachers unions and have a lot of vitriolic rhetoric spewed their way,” Bennett said. “And they’ve stood in the face of that, they continue to stand in the face of that, and I commend [them] for that.”
He said he thinks his opposition doesn’t have much of a plan other than to reverse what his team has done and charged conservatives to challenge his opposition on that.
Dave Matthews, Floyd County Commissioner, spent a lot of time comparing some of Ronald Reagan’s speeches from 1964 to the times he feels the country is facing now. He said this year’s election marks an important part of the country’s future.
“This year, we stand at the doors of a great decision,” Matthews said. “We can choose to continue to follow the policies of enslavery [sic] to a failing economy, and increasing government control of our lives, or we can choose to follow the only paths that have ever brought American greatness.”
Matthews faces Democratic incumbent Chuck Freiberger in November.
Last to the podium was Mike Pence, Republican candidate for the governor’s seat. He noted that the optimism of Indiana residents seems to be down when it comes to government and what it does for them.
“But it hasn’t been until the last couple of years that I’ve heard Hoosiers use the word ‘scared’ to talk about politics and about public life,” Pence said. “And I think people are scared right now because frankly, let’s be honest, because both parties have let the American people down to one degree or another in the last 10 years.”
He said he thinks Indiana will not only lead the Midwest, but also serve as an example for the whole country if the right leaders make it into office.
Pence faces Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham.