IN Senate Race: What’s old is “news”April 21, 2010 - 3:20 PM | by: Steve Brown
What's your definition of news?
Is it information that's 2 1/2 months old?
It was for Dan Coats last night.
In a five-candidate race, Coats is considered a slight favorite in the May 4th Indiana Republican primary for the US Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Evan Bayh. After Tuesday night's televised GOP Senate debate, Coats told reporters he had an announcement to make, before taking questions.
Coats said, "Lemme just pass on some news that I'd like to give you here. I'm really pleased to announce tonight that uh...in fact I just got off the phone with Mike Pence. He's given me his unqualified endorsement and support for this race which I'm thrilled to have. He said some very good things about me when I indicated my intention to run. He's been supportive but uh...to say he's given me now his unqualified support is...is...is very important to me and I'm very appreciative." (You can watch Coats says this for yourself on the video linked to this story.)
The endorsement announcement was bigger than anything that happened in the debate. Congressman Mike Pence is very influential among Indiana Republicans. In the minds of many Hooiser GOP'ers only Governor Mitch Daniels endorsement would be bigger. (And Daniels in not endorsing. He says he'll back the primary winner.)
Wednesday morning, on Coats' campaign FaceBook page, the status trumpeted the Pence endorsement:
Dan Coats for Indiana Big News! Congressman Mike Pence has given Dan his unqualified endorsement for the U.S. Senate!
The thing is...Pence's backing was old news. That's how Pence's chief of staff Bill Smith described it when contacted by Fox News.
In early February, a statement of support for Coats candidacy was issued. This was shortly after Coats' announcement that he intended to join the race. The Pence statement was picked up by some DC media outlets.
Roll Call on February 3rd ran the following quote attributed to Pence:
“I am very excited about the possibility that former Senator Dan Coats may run for the United States Senate in 2010 and I sincerely hope he does it,” Pence said in a statement. “His integrity and conservative record would make him the ideal candidate for Hoosiers. If he runs, I will support him.”
Fifteen days later, Coats filed to run in the Indiana Senate election.
Smith says since that February statement, "The Congressman has not been hesitant" to tell reporters who asked that he was a Coats-backer. Smith made it clear in a telephone interview that while the February statement did not contain the word 'endorsement', it was certainly considered one by Pence.
Still, there was at least some confusion about Pence's backing of Coats. Some supporters had contacted Pence's offices asking who the Representative liked in the primary. Smith says all who inquired were told the same thing, "Coats".
But it shouldn't have been confusing for people who visit Coats campaign website. On a page titled "What They're Saying" a Pence quote sits atop the list:
Congressman Mike Pence: “His integrity and conservative record would make him the ideal candidate for Hoosiers.” (Congressional Quarterly, 2/3/10)
So, did Coats just plain get it the timing wrong with his post-debate "news" announcement?
Kevin Kellems of the Coats campaign sent an e-mail this morning which reads in part:
"Cong. Pence called Dan after the debate. I don't speak for him, but I believe the reason the Congressman reached out to Dan was to make it clear that his statement of support that came very early on was indeed an endorsement."
So, Coats did have Pence's endorsement all along...even before Coats was officially in the race. And certainly a lot of people missed it (including this reporter). But was Coats post-debate announcement last night "news" as he said?
As we says around here at Fox, "You decide."