In 2008 one of the nation’s longest GOP streaks for President was broken. Barack Obama was the first Democrat since LBJ in 1964 to win Indiana. So with Obama’s wave of change sweeping over our state the GOP must have taken a beating and lost the Governor’s race right?Nope, not even close. Mitch Daniels won reelection by 18 points. He made what some would consider “risky” decisions to stay positive and to focus on accomplishments. His background as an NRSC and White House political director served him well and helped him evaluate a very tough landscape for the GOP.How big was the win for Governor Daniels? By the numbers it went like this:• With 1,563,873 votes Governor Daniels received more votes than any other Hoosier candidate for office…ever.• Daniels received 24% of the Democrat vote.• Daniels received 20% of the African American vote.• Daniels won the Independent vote by 18 points.• Daniels won EVERY age group including young voters (51%-42%). A Republican Governor won reelection in a purple state in 2008 not by playing it safe but by being a leader. At times he frustrated some of the consultants (like me) that worked with him but he always saw the long game and what needed to be done to win.How did he do it?• 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. • 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.• 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.• Job creation and tough line on fiscal responsibility. The Midwest is a sea of red ink as every state faces serious budget deficits…every state except one. Indiana.• 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.Governor Daniels is term limited and will exit office in 2012…hmmm what could he do in 2012?Chris Faulkner was a consultant for Gov. Mitch Daniels' 2008 reelection campaign. Faulkner is a vice president at Faulkner Strategies, an Indiana-based political communications firm.
In 2008 one of the nation’s longest GOP streaks for President was broken.