Now that the general election is behind us, we can turn our attention to other things, right?
“When one door closes, another opens,” or so goes the phrase.
It applies to many circumstances. Politics, among them.
Here in Indiana, after Gov. Mitch Daniels cleans out his desk in the Statehouse, Columbus native Mike Pence will back up the “big red truck” in January and start unloading his own stuff to pack into those historic desk drawers.
Politics never ends. It isn’t meant to.
New players, new ideas. New opportunities for fresh debates.
In fact, the general election was hardly over when readers launched into a debate over Wednesday’s front page, specifically the large headline “IT’S PENCE” across the top.
Immediately below were two smaller headlines:
Obama wins four more years
Prekindergarten referendum fails
One letter writer on Thursday looked back to The Republic’s front page from exactly four years ago and observed:
“I recall the headline, “OBAMA!” printed in perhaps the largest possible type, including the exclamation mark. Yesterday’s front page exhibited no such elation regarding his re-election. ... Is that an indication that there’s been a change in your opinion regarding him?”
A second inquiry, this one from a newcomer to Columbus who stopped in personally, asked me why The Republic would give the election of a governor more prominence than the election of a president. No other newspaper that he was aware of did that.
Here’s the thing. Our decision had nothing to do with Barack Obama. It was all about Mike Pence.
You see, Pence is not just Indiana’s 50th governor. After 49 others were elected to the state’s highest office, he holds the distinction of being the first to hail from Columbus. And no other newspaper in Indiana covers this new governor’s hometown like The Republic — not just on Election Day, but every day of the week, 52 weeks of the year.
Campaign coverage of Pence and Democratic challenger John Gregg was given equal coverage leading up to Election Day, and the same was true for President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But once results were known late Tuesday, there was no doubt which story had the highest interest for Columbus readers who knew Pence as a kid and young adult, then watched his political stature rise.
Truth be told, early into Tuesday night we weren’t sure there would be an “IT’S PENCE” or “IT’S OBAMA” or “IT’S ANYBODY” headline across the top of The Republic front page. With the long lines that occurred in various parts of Bartholomew County, elsewhere in Indiana and across the nation on Election Day, delaying the counting of ballots, the closeness of both races raised the possibility that we wouldn’t have a clear-cut winner in either contest before our midnight deadline.
The Tribune-Star of Terre Haute had this Wednesday headline across the top of its front page: “Obama, Romney in tense duel.”
That paper’s biggest headline? “Anderson tops Mason” for county commissioner.
The possibility of having to publish a “too close to call” headline surely gave many an Indiana editor a Tuesday twitch.
But at 10:03 p.m. Tuesday, the Associated Press transmitted five paragraphs announcing, “GOP’s Pence wins election as Indiana governor.”
And even closer to our deadline, at 11:46 p.m., the AP transmitted, “Obama wins re-election as battleground states fall his way.”
We did not use the AP story reporting results of the Indiana governor’s race. Since Columbus is Pence’s hometown, we deployed several Republic reporters to cover his day and night.
Our coverage began Tuesday morning when Pence visited with voters outside Parkside Elementary School, where the 53-year-old governor-elect had attended kindergarten. It was 7 in the morning and 26 degrees.
At least this well-educated man (with a Columbus North High School diploma, college bachelor’s degree and law degree) had the good sense to wear a heavy sweater!
Then things moved to the Clifford Fire Department, where Pence had breakfast at 8 before casting his own ballot — as did others in his immediate family — at the fire station at 9 a.m.
Later, we were in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, where the state’s leading Republicans were waiting for final results and the chance to celebrate a win. We were there as observers, ready to file the final update of our daylong coverage. That came around 11, shortly after the Columbus native stepped to the podium and pledged to do the job that Hoosiers had just elected him to.
A couple of hours later, politicians and journalists were ready to call it a night after a very long day.
And after four hours of sleep, we awoke to a brand new political season, one in which a Columbus native plays a very large role.
Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You may reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at email@example.com