Informed and reliable Republican sources are telling HPR that U.S. Rep. John Hostettler has essentially given up on his re-election bid. The sources say that Hostettler has informed key Republican allies in Vanderburgh County that he is suspending most of his campaign activities. The sources tell HPR that he came to this conclusion in the last couple weeks. However, he has not been keeping a heavy campaign schedule for much of the fall campaign season. He did not campaign over the tradtional political rollout Labor Day weekend. When the PBS Lehrer Newshour sought out his campaign schedule prior to a mid-September weekend, they were told that Hostettler had no events planned. The sources tell HPR that Hostettler's realization of his bleak re-election prospects prompted him to put more energy into his subcommittee hearings on immigration. Hostettler was also the only Republican Congressional delegation Member to bypass the Indiana GOP's ROMP event at the Columbia Club on Saturday, Oct. 7. The National Republican Campaign Committee has suspended its activites in the 8th CD, after a number of polls showed Democratic Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth with a growing lead. In HPR's 13-year history, we have never witnessed an incumbent congressman throwing in the towel prior to Election Day. Hostettler was first elected in 1994.
Howey's incredible report appears to be contradicted, at least in part, by what Ed Feigenbaum is reporting at Indiana Daily Insight. Feigenbaum, who is more cautious in his reporting than Howey, writes at IDI:
And while rumors were rife Friday that the National Republican Congressional Committee has cut off aid in CD 08, they made an independent expenditure of $155,810 that same day against CD 08 challenger Brad Ellsworth (D).
If Hostettler is telling people he has given up because of sagging poll numbers as Howey reports, then why would the NRCC opt to dump more than $155,810 in his campaign immediately after it completed taking another poll in the 8th District last week? The Star reports today that the NRCC has spent more on Hostettler's race than either Rep. Chris Chocola's or Rep. Mike Sodrel's hotly contested races. It has dumped $1.66 million into Hostettler's re-election as of the latest federal reporting.
I'm highly skeptical of Howey's claim for no other reason than it is completely uncharacteristic of Hostettler. Ever since he won the 8th District in an upset 10 years ago, in almost every election there were claims that Hostettler was toast. Each election, he has outpolled what the polls and political pundits said he would.
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz asked Howey during an interview today on "Abdul in the Morning" about Feigenbaum's seemingly contradictory reporting, and Howey seemed to be caught a little flat-footed by it. He fell back on the fact that Hostettler didn't have a press secretary and wouldn't return his phone calls, although he acknowledged that Hostettler has never had a press secretary or returned his phone calls since he's been in Congress. He also conceded that the NRCC was still running at least one ad in the Hostettler race. In his report, he mentions that Howey did not attend the ROMP event at the Columbia Club this weekend as did the other Republican congressional candidates. Again, that is not an unusual thing for the independent Hostettler to do.
I have to concede that Hostettler's re-election looks even bleaker than it has in previous elections, but I still find it hard to believe he's just given up three weeks before the election. If Howey's reporting in this case is inaccurate, it would seem to be a pretty cruel thing to do any candidate.
UPDATE: Howey posts this reaction to his report from the NRCC: Ed Patru, spokesman for the RNCC told HPR, "Do you realize you just wrote a political obit based on a background quote?" Patru could not tell HPR how many points the RNCC had bought or the duration of the ads. "Turn on your TV in Evansville. Or turn it on in Terre Haute," Patru said. "You will see our ads in either market - plenty of points there so you won't need to watch long."
Here's Hostettler's biting response to Howey's report: "My 12 years of experience with Brian Howey and his so-called 'Report' is that if I could buy either of them for what they are worth and sell them for what they think they are worth, I would never have to hold another fundraiser for the rest of the times I would ever want to run for the House, the Senate, or the White House," Hostettler's statement said. "And, no, this is not an announcement about any future plans for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at this time."