Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Indiana in play?

Last night, Hillary Clinton pulled off a razor thin victory in Indiana, beating Obama by about 2 percentage points. The effect is a toss-up, which damages severely Hillary's chances to continue her bid for the nomination.

On MSNBC last night, Chuck Todd drew a line across IN from about Terre Haute, south of Indianapolis, to just south of Muncie and announced that the line appeared to be Indiana's own "Mason Dixon" line. That is, white voters behaved very differently to the south of that line. In short, Hillary racked up huge margins in the Southern parts of the state (essentially, the 8th and 9th Congressional districts) that appears to be the result of older, white, blue collar workers who couldn't stomach Barack Obama's candidacy. The question is why? Was the issue race or class?

Exit polls indicated that in Indiana, BO did better than in PA on the question of the economy: 53% supported HRC if they thought the economy was the number 1 issue, while 47% supported BO.

What's interesting is voters were also asked whether race mattered in their vote. Overwhelmingly, those who said yes voted for HRC--and here's the interesting part: 70% of those over the age of 65 who said race mattered voted for her.

As someone who has lived a number of years in Indiana, the Mason Dixon line that Chuck Todd "happened" upon last night is nothing new. Anyone familiar with the history of the Civil War knows that Indiana south of Indianapolis was Confederate friendly country and probably would have seceeded if left to their own devices. Martinsville, IN was the home of the KKK's Grand Wizard, and the KKK dominated state politics through much of the 1920s. Surely BO's comments about bitterness and clinging to faith were not helpful. But race has always been an issue in the southern reaches of the state.

Looking at the results a bit differently, however, portends some possible problems for BO come the fall. BO won Tippecanoe (Purdue), Monroe (Indiana University), Marion (Indianapolis), St. Joseph (South Bend and Notre Dame), Allen (Fort Wayne), Lake (Gary), Hamilton (Indy suburb), Boone (another Indy suburb), and Elkhart counties. That's it folks. EVERY other county went to HRC. Jefferson county, a suburb of Louisville, went 66-33 for HRC (which might tell you how Kentucky will go). The margins elsewhere were similar.

Unless BO can change the dynamics of this election once he wraps up the nomination, he will have a tough time changing the electoral map. To win Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, and Virginia, he's going to have to reach out to those rural, white, lower class voters. McCain's biography is compelling to those voters, and BO is going to have a tough time topping him in this area. This means BO will have to beat McCain on the issues. Given the toxic nature of the Republican brand name these days, this should not be hard to do IF he can get off the nomination battle and onto the general election campaign. Last night, he signaled that he was prepared to do that.

HRC, unfortunately, seems less than willing. But given that campaigns are funded by resources (read The Power of Money in Congressional Campaigns, 1880-2006 for my take on this), she's going to have a tough go of it in the next few weeks. Money will begin to dry up and then she'll have little choice but to bow out.

And then BO can begin to repair the wounds of the primary and get his ducks in order for the fall campaign. Will Indiana be in play this fall? I would have to say, given the primary election results, that it is not very likely.