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By Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

April 16, 2024


To start the fourth year of its “Off the Record” discussions, the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site will take a look at the inner workings of presidential campaigns.


“Off the Record: Blazing the Campaign Trail” will be from 9 to 11 a.m. May 1 at Pacers Square at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. It will feature a power brunch and a panel discussion by Hoosiers who will share stories, insights and behind-the-scenes anecdotes from their work on helping candidates get to the White House.


Morgan Snyder, senior director of public relations for Visit Indy, will moderate the discussion.


The panelists are West Lafayette Mayor Erin Easter, who worked as a field organizer in Ohio for the Obama for America campaign in 2008; Mike McDaniel, executive director of governmental affairs at Krieg DeVault, who served as Indiana chairman of the George W. Bush for President Campaign in 2000; and Adam Wren, national correspondent for Politico, who covered the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns of Donald Trump and Pete Buttigieg, respectively.


Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Harrison Presidential Site’s ticket portal.


Charles Hyde, president and CEO of the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, said the goal of the “Off the Record series is to fulfill Harrison’s view that “independency of thought is the first requisite of the responsible citizen.” The series, which has included a peek inside the U.S. Supreme Court and a look at how Congress crafts and passes legislation, offers firsthand accounts from Hoosiers who have served in different capacities at the highest levels of government.



“It’s important to draw these firsthand accounts from people who have actually been there and been part of that decision making,” Hyde said. “It can become such an abstraction when we watch on cable news or see in the national media these actions taking place in these three branches of government. … To be able to have those firsthand accounts … humanizes the decisions that are being made. So often for these individuals, they’re working with the best information that’s available to them in that moment in time.”


During his run for the presidency in 1888, Harrison conducted a “front porch” campaign. He gave speeches from the steps of his Indianapolis home on North Delaware Street to more than 300,000 people who made the journey to Indiana to hear him.


Also, Hyde said, Harrison relied on the “instantaneous communication” technology that was available during the latter half of the 19th century. Harrison spoke extemporaneously, but his secretary transcribed his words and then sent the speech over the telegraph and telephone to push his message to a wider audience, and, Hyde said, prevent him from being misquoted.


Hyde noted a presidential campaign in the 1880s may invoke images of a simpler time but contentious political contests have long been a part of American history. The hot-button issues that punctuated previous presidential races, he said, serve as a reminder that the stakes of choosing a president have always been high.


Although voters can tire of the attack ads, debates, yard signs, and endless stream of political news, Hyde said campaigns serve an important purpose. They help crystallize the platforms of the parties and enable voters to get to know the people who want to lead the country, he said.


“Election Day is as much a deadline as it is anything else in which decisions have to be made,” Hyde said. “So it’s something of a crucible. We want to understand, especially from public figures, that they’ll be able to withstand the pressures of crises. In many ways … the rigors of a political campaign really help test out our candidates.”


Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, edited this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and IndyStar.com, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal.


The Indiana Citizen is a nonpartisan, nonprofit platform dedicated to increasing the number of informed and engaged Hoosier citizens. We are operated by the Indiana Citizen Education Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) public charity. For questions about the story, contact Marilyn Odendahl at marilyn.odendahl@indianacitizen.org







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