Election 2008: Previewing the Indiana Primary

Brian Howey
Editor, Howey Political Report
Monday, May 5, 2008; 12:00 PM

Howey Political Report editor Brian Howey was online Monday, May 5 at noon ET to take your questions on the Democratic primary in Indiana on Tuesday, the vice presidential chances of Sen. Evan Bayh and how things look in the state for November.

The transcript follows.


Brian Howey: Greetings from Indiana. I am Brian Howey and I've been publishing Howey Politics Indiana since 1994. I've been writing a newspaper column since my days at the Elkhart Truth, going back to 1985, and it appears in 25 papers across the state -- and, of course, you can find all the top Indiana political news at my Web site. I've attended about a dozen Clinton and Obama events, ranging from press conferences to town halls in the past couple weeks. I can tell you that Hoosiers -- and yes, we are proud to be called Hoosiers -- never have been so excited about political participation. With that said, your questions, please!


Kansas City, Mo.: Why isn't anyone asking why Hillary can't win over educated voters, activists, blacks or the youth? Why are white, uneducated "Reagan Democrats" considered so much more important than the educated, the politically involved and the most reliable Democratic constituency? The future of our country is being discounted in favor of the "swing" voters who have not been a strong voting bloc for the Democrats in years.

Brian Howey: Our polling is showing that the Indiana primary may be decided by Republican and independent voters. Up to 20 percent may be non-Democrats. In the Howey-Gauge Poll of April 23-24, 10 percent of participants were expected to be Republicans and 9 percent independents. Unlike Pennsylvania, this is a crossover state. Republicans were favoring Clinton 50-44. So the "Reagan Democrats" may not be the ones who decide this election. It could be the Obamicans and the Limbaugh chaos seekers who swing this election.


Kensington, Md.: I don't see how Sen. Bayh, who has piled on the Clinton campaign's subtle race-baiting bandwagon of late, would do a thing toward bringing the Obama wing of the party back on board in November. (I'm a longtime Democrat who simply doesn't see much difference between her and McCain anymore: two cravenly political centrist pawns of the military-industrial machine who will say anything to get elected.) Do you think Bayh sunk his chances with his recent stoking of the media's manufactured Wright bull?

Brian Howey: Sen. Bayh addressed the Indiana Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner and went out of his way to stress that he isn't "against" Obama. He urged Democrats to rally around the nominee once they get past their disappointment. I don't believe Bayh had much of a chance to be Obama's vice presidential nominee -- he endorsed Clinton back in September when she was the "inevitable" nominee. It seemed like a good bet then. Should she somehow win the nomination, Evan Bayh certainly would be on her short list, though that decision will be predicated on her political needs. Yes, Bill Clinton selected Al Gore in 1992 from a neighboring state, but Bayh probably wouldn't bring much to an Obama ticket. Dick Lugar would do more for Obama -- if he were truly to be bold -- than Bayh. And my prediction if Obama wins is either Sen. Jim Webb or Sam Nunn. An Obama-Nunn ticket would position the ticket extremely well.


Tampa, Fla.: Who has the edge in the Indiana presidential primary and gubernatorial primary?

Brian Howey: I wish I had mystical powers. Right now, I have the Clinton-Obama race as a tossup. The polls showed Clinton with momentum going into mid-last week, mostly because of the Rev. Wright controversy. Rep. Baron Hill and Joe Andrew's switch to Obama changed the subject (though Tim Russert and Matt Lauer didn't get the memo that Hoosiers were more interested in gas prices and No Child Left Behind than Rev. Wright). My sense is the momentum may be shifting back to Obama. We will be watching African American turnout and whether GOP turnout will be high. I have to tell you, it was delicious watching Bill Clinton mine Republican votes in Rep. Dan Burton's district. Will it be too late? We have 200,000 new voters in this election and no one safely can predict how they will act or in what volume. In Indiana, we call a race like this ... a barn-burner.


Silver Spring, Md.: I grew up in Western Ohio but haven't lived there in nearly 30 years now. Are my old neighbors really as closet-racist as the Clinton/Hannity/Bayh/Limbaugh team are counting on them to be Tuesday? I had hoped the Midwest had opened up some in these intervening decades. Thanks for chatting, anyway.

Brian Howey: I hope that sometime in my lifetime, elections will be lost on content of character as opposed to skin color. I wish I could say we're there now, but I can't. People with racist tendencies often don't reveal them to the pollsters. I have Democratic sources who tell me that it exists. It was fascinating to watch Obama come to Evansville on the night of the Pennsylvania primary. He never had been there before and the local papers speculated he might not fill up Roberts Stadium, but about 8,000 people turned out and he got the endorsement of Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel. Obama picked up the Baron Hill and Lee Hamilton endorsements, and Hamilton barnstormed across the 8th and 9th congressional districts. We'll be watching to see if Hamilton might have changed some minds.


Chicago: I am still not clear on what Joe Andrew brings to the table in terms of impacting the Indiana vote. Is he well-known in Indiana ... did it really make the news there -- among voters -- that it did among the D.C. pundits? Seemed to me mostly an "inside the Beltway" story, but I could be wrong.

Brian Howey: Joe Andrew certainly made news with his switch. I don't believe it swayed a huge amount of votes, but what it did was change the subject away from the right Rev. Wright. It came when Barack Obama needed it the most. And here's another angle to Joe's decision: He left the Democratic National Committee chair in 2001; at a Democratic Leader Council the following summer, Terry McAuliffe showed up in Indianapolis and ripped the state of the party on Joe's home turf. Could this have been a wee lil' payback?

Other than Evan Bayh and Lee Hamilton's endorsements, I think they have only nominal impact. What largely has been missed by the press is that this could be a turnout election. Obama began this sequence with an advantage there, but Clinton has made up quite a bit of ground. With polls showing this race closing up, who has the best turnout mechanism may rule the day.


Baltimore: Delegates aren't apportioned by percentage of the overall state vote, but by percentage in each district. The candidate who wins the most delegates generally does best in districts with odd numbers of delegates to award. How do the two candidates fare in the odd-delegate districts in Indiana?

Brian Howey: I believe you're talking about the 6th Congressional District in East Central Indiana with cities like Anderson, Muncie, Richmond and Columbus. The first three have lost many United Auto Workers jobs; some of the locals are closing up shop. I can't project a winner in the 6th. I think it could go either way. All these cities have sizeable African American populations, surrounded by rural areas where Bill Clinton really has turned on the charm.


Washington: With seven out of 19 villages in Guam reporting, the stage is set for those Hoosiers to get out and vote. What do you expect for turnout? Is is open or closed?

Brian Howey: This is an open election. At dozens of events, we saw people lining up at 3 a.m. and huge lines wrapped around the various basketball arenas. I think we'll have record turnout. We haven't seen anything like this since RFK, Eugene McCarthy and Roger Branigin slugged it out in 1968. I believe there will be significant GOP and independent participation. This one might be as close as Guam ... and, you know, as Guam goes, so go the Hoosiers. Not sure we're going to see an MSNBC projection at 8:10 p.m. It might be more like 10 p.m. or 11 p.m.


Chicago (next door to Indiana): Hi. I just wanted to insert a little bit of geography into the discussion of the Indiana primary. I am glad to see that some reporters have made mention of the fact that Northwest Indiana (from Gary to South Bend), which accounts for about 20-25 percent of the Democratic vote, lives in the Chicago media market.

It's more than just sharing the same TV, newspapers, etc.; the communities in Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, etc., are in some ways extensions of the city of Chicago -- and, specifically, the southside communities that are the base of Obama's support. The "borders" are nonexistent: families, churches and shopping (especially to avoid Cook Co. sales taxes) all cross state lines.

For those of you in Washington reading this -- think Chevy Chase, D.C., or Friendship Heights vs. Chevy Chase, Md. Not a huge difference. Anyway, as you look at tomorrow's results -- keep that in mind. Also, keep in mind that Obama's plurality out of Cook County was 400,000 votes...

Brian Howey: I asked Obama last week if his organizing activities extended across the state line into Indiana. He said that as the steel mills closed, there were many Hoosiers in the churches and parishes he worked with, and a number of his Illinois neighbors migrated to Indiana. Yes, it's one large economic entity, all interconnected. Obama was expected to have an advantage in Northwest Indiana, but local sources believe the race has tightened up there, and it was hard to miss the racial fault lines in Da Region. Gary Mayor Clay, Sen. Earline Rogers and a number of African Americans endorsed Obama, but a number of white mayors from Whiting, Hammond, Crown Point and Hobart sided with Hillary. If Obama loses the 1st Congressional District, he won't win Indiana. It was also noteworthy that Rep. Pete Visclosky didn't take a side. If he had endorsed either one, it would have been a big lift. And, by the way, Go Sox!


Chicago: How is the gas tax issue playing? To me, even if Clinton is taking a hit for "pandering," at least she appears like she wants to do something -- not a perfect idea, but "something." On the other hand, Obama has spent the past few days arguing against it. To me, that's time spent "on her turf." A personal observation: Being a Chicagoan, when I drive into Indiana (couple times a year), it seems like every gas station, convenience store, etc. has a sign posted telling customers to "shop here to avoid Cook County (Illinois) taxes" ... which tells me that people are concerned about saving every penny, including 18 cents a gallon. Your thoughts?

Brian Howey: The gas tax issue could determine who wins. As I've said in other posts, Hillary seemed to have the momentum when all the talk was about Rev. Wright (who, by the way, was awarded an honorary doctorate degree at Valparaiso University for his community work). I think the gas tax debate was critical in shifting the momentum. Polls like Zogby's two-day tracking have Obama up 2 percent -- and if that's indicative, it could be due to the gas issue. It's worth noting that Zogby didn't get it right in California, so we'll see. The local media was full of stories from local economists who saw the Clinton gas holiday as nutty and pandering. If Obama wins, it may have been to the rejection of the gas holiday issue. In 2000, Gov. Frank O'Bannon suspended the gas tax, and in doing so he rendered Rep. David McIntosh's challenge moot -- David never got back in the game. But will Hoosiers see history repeating itself and instead of taking the chump change, ask "why do we keep have exploding gas prices?"


Anonymous: Electronic voting in Indiana or paper ballots? Any history of voting irregularities? Will the photo ID voter law dampen turnout enough to make a difference?

Brian Howey: Good question. You almost certainly have read tthe U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the voter ID law, but most of the voting irregularities in places like East Chicago, Muncie and Anderson have centered on absentee ballot mischief. The Howard County Election Board in Kokomo just threw out 500 ballots produced by the UAW. After Florida in 2000, Indiana moved to an electronic voting system. It likely is also working on innovative "voting centers" in places like Richmond (Wayne County) and Lafayette/West Lafayette in Tippecanoe County. Instead of dozens of precincts, there are centrally located voting centers where anyone from any neighborhood can vote. They were deemed successful in the city elections last year. Indianapolis has reduced the number of precincts from more than 900 to around 600.


Washington: If Clinton doesn't get the nomination, or does get the nomination but loses the general election, do you think that she will go through all this again in four years?

Brian Howey: Remember the movie "Roger Rabbit?" A-shave-and-a-haircut? What Toon can resist that? The Clintons cannot resist a good election. Hillary never will drop out because they just love to run. I am certain she would run against a President McCain. I still think Obama wins the nomination, even if he loses Indiana. If he loses Indiana and North Carolina, that's a completely different scenario. Tap, tap, ta-tap, tap!


Anchorage, Alaska: Have Jews made bigger political gains in Indiana than blacks? Black mayors? Jewish congressmen? Even the South has gotten over Jim Crow. Except for friends of Strom Thurmond, and we all know who I'm talking about. Thanks.

Brian Howey: Indiana does not have a lengthy history of minority representation. In our 192-year history, we've had three African-American mayors, all from Gary. We've elected two African-American sheriffs. We've elected three black Members of Congress, and Katie Hall of Gary lost to Pete Visclosky after just one term (the third, Rep. Andre Carson, is fighting a tough primary to keep his grandmother's seat). We've had two Hispanic mayors. Indiana has not elected a female governor, though the past two lieutenant governors have been female. So while we've had lots of minority city councilmen, there hasn't been much congressional or executive power in black hands. An Obama victory would be historic.


Chicago: What do you make of the candidates both heading to North Carolina today? Does that indicate that things are "locked in" (for one side or the other) in Indiana? (By the way ... go Cubs!)

Brian Howey: Obama will be back for a rally at 7:30 p.m. at the American Legion Mall in Indianapolis with our beautiful skyline as a backdrop. As a Sox fan, I'm sure Barack Obama will be fighting through the 9th inning. By the way, I hope the Cubs can savor the kind of experience we White Sox fans enjoyed in 2005.


Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: I went to junior high school (Maconaquah) when the Air Force base was active there (the '60s). Most of the locals were farmers and townspeople. Not awfully sophisticated, but savvy enough to know shinola from the free range stuff. Are Hoosiers still sharp enough to recognize a gas tax holiday bamboozle from the regular political boozles that appear just ahead of a primary election? In other words, do they get it, or is America condemned to be led for another four years by an aw-shucks huckster so far as Indiana is concerned? Thanks much.

Brian Howey: A Maconaquah Brave talkin' to a Peru Tiger! The national media sometimes has portrayed us as a change-resistant state. In the past three election cycles, Hoosier voters have tossed out an incumbent governor, three incumbent congressmen, the president of the Indiana Senate, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, the mayor of Indianapolis and about 40 percent of his incumbent brethren. We've switched to Daylight Saving Time. We can change and do change if someone can logically make the case for such change. If Obama wins Indiana, it will say volumes about our shift as a progressive state. By the way, Hoosiers helped invent the automobile, TV, 2 percent milk and tomato juice. The Bloody Mary wouldn't exist without Hoosiers.


Chicago: It was interesting to me how many hits Clinton took for her "shot and a beer" moment a few weeks ago ... in the past few days, I've seen pictures of Obama drinking beer out of a can, shooting hoops, roller skating ... without any of the criticism that Clinton received. Why the difference?

Brian Howey: Hoosiers loved it when Hillary "sipped" her Crown Royal. It was the best photograph of the sequence. The big debate here wasn't that she had a shot, it was that she sipped it instead of throwing it back in one gulp. Hoosiers love their beer drinkers, just as long as they don't hit the interstate. Obama drinking a Bud probably was calculated. Talk in rural areas was that he was too intellectual, so the campaign really shifted to accent his Midwestern sensibilities. We'll have to wait and see if it worked. Obama also did the hoops thing here: a three-on-three game in Kokomo, a visit to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle with George McGinnis (just off I-70 if you're cruising through). In Indiana, when it doubt, play basketball.


Anonymous: Does Dan Burton come across as unbalanced in person as he does on C-SPAN?

Brian Howey: I never have seen him do a gymnastic routine on the balance beam. As a journalist, a long time ago I determined that in most cases it is unwise to assume the mantle of a psychoanalyst.


Indianapolis: No question, just a comment: I'm excited to vote tomorrow! This is my first year as a registered Indiana voter (until now, was registered in my home state of Maryland). Wouldn't it be great if all the newly registered voters here managed to switch Indiana to blue this November? Okay, that's just wishful thinking.

Brian Howey: I am excited this election, too, as a father. My 18-year-old son Thomas will be voting in his first election. I am proud that he registered and I hope we can go to the polls together at the North Side Knights of Columbus here in Broad Ripple, Ind. As a writer, I've seen dozens of other first-time voters who have engaged in the process -- some even becoming activists. Democracy needs maintenance. Liberty needs an oil change. That is happening now in Indiana, home of the internal combustion engine. I am quite pleased you've seen the light and grabbed the torch.


New voters...: About those 200,000 new voters, can you describe them (recently registered, yes?) and how they're expected to vote? Could the Indiana outcome be as narrow as 200,000 votes?

Brian Howey: The Obama campaign told me they helped register 90,000. I haven't heard a figure from the Clinton campaign. I suspect the other 110,000 were people attracted to the Clinton-Obama race. How will they vote? I suspect Obama will get a good portion of them. If he does, it could determine the outcome of the election. Having said that, the people turning out to Hillary Clinton's events have been equally animated. I know of many female voters who are looking forward to Tuesday. And, yes, the margin of error could be within that 200,000.


Anonymous: Is either Obama or Clinton planning on being in Indiana on Tuesday night? Where the candidates are when returns come in seems to be a good indicator on what their internal poll numbers are showing.

Brian Howey: Sen. Clinton will have her election night rally at the Murat Centrein downtown Indianapolis. We're hopeful that either she or Barack Obama (appearing tonight at the American Legion Mall) will join us for a bourbon at The Chatterbox Tavern, the best jazz dive in the Great American Midwest. Obama's tendency always has been to move on to the next state, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him in West Virginia or Kentucky Tuesday night. The man thinks ahead.


Rochester, N.Y.: Can we expect whoever wins Indiana to celebrate with shot and a beer?

Brian Howey: I am offering both the Clinton and Obama campaigns a victory shot and a beer at the Chatterbox while Claude and Frank hit the clarinet and keys.


Anonymous: Do Rep. Hill, Joe Andrew and ex-Rep. Hamilton's endorsements of Obama carry weight with Indiana voters equal to Sen. Bayh's Clinton endorsement? Is the Magnequench story resonating with voters? Is your feel the same as polls, which show Clinton up by 6 percent? Are you getting more hits on your site? Has Sen. Lugar weighed in on this contest, and would he have a lot of pull with Republicans voting in the primary?

Brian Howey: I thought Hillary Clinton did a great job using the Magnequench story to her advantage. Tying job loss to national security was astute. The ABC News story that broke about this move to China during the Clinton administration did not get wide coverage in Indiana, so I suspect its impact will be minimal. As for the endorsements, Bayh's is more influential because of his veep prospects and his command of the Indiana Democratic Party. Indiana may be one of the only states where a significant number of voters actually are voting for vice president than president.


The big debate here wasn't that she had a shot, it was that she sipped it instead of throwing it back in one gulp: In her defense, that shot was huge. Must be a good bar and bartender

Brian Howey: Bronko's in Crown Point has some of the best bartenders in the Western Hemisphere.


Anonymous: Is a part of Indiana still not turning their clocks forward for daylight savings time?

Brian Howey: The Evansville and Chicago media market areas stay on Chicago time. In Evansville, it's because agriculture wants to stay on the same time with the Chicago Board of Trade. The entire state is now in sync with the civilized world, though many Democrats still chafe that it all came about because of Gov. Mitch Daniels.


Indiana Wants Me: What do you make of the chatter about Democrat primary voters switching to John McCain if their Democrat-of-choice does not win the nomination? I can't imagine this happening, regardless of whether Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton wins the nomination. Which Hoosiers would vote for Sen. McCain if their Democrat does not secure the nomination?

Brian Howey: There might be some Democrats who switch to John McCain, but the overwhelming majority will close ranks behind the nominee in reaction to the Oil Presidency of Bush/Cheney.


Brian Howey: Folks, it's time to go. Many thanks to The Washington Post for providing this unique forum. And thanks to its readers to engaging this mild-mannered Midwestern journalist. Please remember that if you want to know what's happening in Indiana politics, the best place to do so is Howey Politics.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company