Or how Mitch lost the electionSteve Hammer

This is the time of year when the election yard signs come out and when people start showing support for their candidates by slapping bumper stickers on their cars. I'm sure that any traffic infraction I commit is made much more serious in the eyes of local cops when there's a Democrat involved.

That may or may not be a good thing. I've always held strong political views but I've also always refrained from exhibiting them too publicly, at least when it comes to my car.

The main reason I don't have a John Kerry bumper sticker on my car is that I don't want to get hassled by police. I'm sure that any traffic infraction I commit is made much more serious in the eyes of local cops when there's a Democrat involved.

And I park in Broad Ripple a lot. I don't want some drunken Republican frat boy to smash out my window because I support Kerry and Edwards. I'm not stupid.

That's why I'm surprised to see so many yard signs out this year, especially ones announcing their support for "My Bitch Mitch," Mitch Daniels. Drive through any wealthy neighborhood and you'll see plenty of them.

Of course, wherever you have election signs, vandals aren't far behind. I saw a series of Daniels yard signs the other day that had been defaced with a single spray-painted word: "IPALCO."

If My Bitch Mitch ends up losing the election, it will be because of IPALCO. Up until last month, Daniels had done a savvy job of disguising his kill-the-poor policies with a mask of populism.

He'd almost fooled the voters of Indiana into thinking he would be a good governor and seemed on the way to victory.

But then Gov. Joe Kernan took off the gloves with a series of hard-hitting but truthful attack ads. They accurately portrayed Daniels as the money-grubbing Montgomery Burns character he is.

Most devastatingly, Kernan neutralized months of Daniels' PR work with a single line in the ad. Delivered in a thick Hoosier drawl by a man who'd been fleeced in the IPALCO deal, it sliced through the Daniels campaign like a chainsaw:

"If he can do that to the workin' man, hell, it's hard to tell wut he'd do if he was governer."

Mitch Daniels should remember those words, for they may be inscribed upon his political tombstone: "Hell, it's hard to tell wut he'd do if he was governer."

Good old common sense usually prevails in most of Indiana. Hoosiers know when someone has been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. It's absolutely delightful to see Daniels drowning in a sea of denials.

To his credit, he fought back with an ad of his own, one that will also go down in history for its sheer gall. It's basically Richard Nixon's "Checkers" speech or Clinton's Monica speech compressed into 30 seconds.

Transcribed and spaced out properly, it reads like a poem and is well worth examining, for the way in which it attempted to change the subject.

"About the governor's latest personal attack: At IPALCO, I always voted in the interests of shareholders and employees.

"I am truly sad that some folks weren't able to keep the gains everybody got at the outset.

"I sold all my stock because President Bush called me to service and it was the most ethical thing to do.

"I gave the IPALCO proceeds and much more to church and charity.

"This may be my first election, but I gotta believe they can be won without attacking anyone's character. Let's prove it!"

In the course of 30 seconds, he manages to get across the following points: 1. Questioning anything Daniels says is an attack. 2. Everything he did was in the best interests of others, not millions in Daniels' own pocket. 3. He is quite unhappy that everyone is not as rich as he is.

Fourth, he only sold the stock because he was called to duty to eliminate the budget surplus and to run up record deficits, anyway. Besides, he gave all the millions - AND MORE, mind you! - to "church and charity," so even if he committed a criminal act, giving the money to church absolves him from sin.

That's quite a bit to fit into a 30 second spot, but Daniels knew the election was on the line. He may still win, but he will never again be the man of the people he once proclaimed himself as being.

He's been exposed as a half-wit Bush henchman who was caught red-handed with an insider trade. Martha Stewart gets to go to jail while My Bitch Mitch gets to ride around Indiana in an ugly RV, handing out hideous green shirts to yahoos.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kernan gets to have it both ways. He's taking the high road because he's a nice guy and wouldn't attack anyone personally. He also gets to attack the hell out of his opponent and portray him as stealing the dimes and quarters of retirees.

That's why I'm surprised to see so many Daniels yard signs out there. I remember my own teen-age years spent tearing down Dan Quayle signs as fast as people could set them out.

Friends of mine used to slime houses with rotten pumpkins and toilet paper because they had Reagan signs in their front yards. When you make a political statement in public, there's no telling what can happen when someone takes exception.

That's why I'll just keep the Kerry stickers at home and keep working, as surreptitiously as I can, to undermine the greedheads like Daniels in this state who would Goldsmith us to death.

And my front lawn will stay amazingly garbage-free throughout the elections.

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