Will Indiana Prove To Be Decisive?

Will Indiana Prove To Be Decisive?


Morus looks ahead to the Hoosier state as the Democrat endgame approaches

Whilst all eyes are on Pennsylvania on the 22nd April, there are a number of primaries being held within a couple of weeks of that contest which could still yet have an impact on Clinton’s pending decision to fight or concede. Although Obama has recently drawn very close in the PA polls, it would be a massive surprise for Clinton to lose this primary, although the odds suggest that he is likely to come within 10% of her vote share. This is now less about the number of pledged delegates won in each state, and rather about the strength in these latter contests affecting the decision of seemingly the only 351 people in American not to have already made up their mind: the currently uncommitted Superdelegates.

After Pennsylvania, most states look reasonably safe for one candidate or another: few people can imagine Obama making much ground in West Virginia or Kentucky (Appalachia as a cross-state region has been solidly impregnable to his charm), whereas Clinton would have to seriously exceed expectations to win in North Carolina, and Oregon appears to be leaning well away from her as well (Obama would beat McCain there, but Clinton would lose to McCain if she won the nomination, according to Rassmussen).

Between now and the 3rd of June (when South Dakota and Montana go to the polls) there is only one post-Pennsylvania contest that looks like being remotely competitive: the Indiana primary which takes place on 6th May. Only a couple of polls have been posted on Real Clear Politics, with Clinton said to be leading by 9 and 3 points on April 2nd and 4th respectively. The commonality of these polls suggest that whilst Indianapolis and suburbs lean heavily towards Obama, the rest of the state favours Clinton, even those parts that border Illinois. The only other notable aspect of the polls is that whereas in previous contests, Obama has won close to 90% of the African-American vote, Clinton is said to be attracting between 16% and 21% of that demographic in Indiana. Although Survey USA suggested that 2% of Clinton’s 9 point lead in their survey was due to Republican voters, claims that this is part of a deliberate strategy by the GOP remain unsupported.

Institutionally, Clinton enjoys the vocal support of 5 of Indiana’s 12 Superdelegates (versus Obama’s 2), most notably Senator (and former two-term Governor) Evan Bayh – one of the few nationally-prominent Democrats from the state. Former Governor Joe Kernan has also endorsed her, but none of the current Indiana Democratic Congressmen have made an endorsement.

Other political activity in the state surrounds GOP Governor Mitch Daniels attempt at re-election in November, where there is a strong chance that his 53% share of the vote may not survive to give him a second term, especially given his close ties to President GW Bush. Democrats are energised in trying to retake the Governor’s mansion, with Jill Long Thompson (former Congresswoman, and a Dept of Agriculture Under-Secretary in the Clinton Administration) leading in the Democratic primary thanks to union endorsements and support from Emily’s List. If nominated, she would stand a good chance of being Indiana’s 50th Governor, and the first woman to hold that post. Might this type of candidate mean that the active Democratic grassroots currently working in the state are those more likely to be inclined towards Clinton?

The impact on the momentum of the race is key here – how would the different scenarios in Indiana affect the perceived momentum, and therefore impact the uncommitted Superdelegates (including 5 Indiana Democratic Congressmen)? A strong Clinton win might counteract Obama’s expected victory in North Carolina the same day. A narrow Clinton win might give her just enough hope to hold on for West Virginia a week later. A loss might make her look bad holding on, and could lead to a small leakage of Superdelegates (including the Hoosier Congressional Dems) to Obama, but would probably not finish her off. A heavy loss to Obama, coming on the same day as North Carolina, could be the blow that unleashes a Superdelegate flood that brings this spectacle to a close.

It may be that Indiana has very little impact on the race, if Clinton is already fixed on a Convention-based victory, and the Superdelegates are not prepared to announce in a timely fashion, then it could be little more than a side show. However, a strong win or loss (with the momentum that would be claimed) could be the catalyst for some of the 351 to join the rest of America, and make up their minds.

Links to recent polls:



Morus is a regular contributor to pb.com and is one of the leading American experts on the site.

Guest Editor’s Note

Just to let you all know that Mike should be back running the site from tomorrow morning, so “thanks for having me” during a busy week at home and abroad. The Italy article should be out around tea-time tomorrow, and I hope to be writing a regular Sunday evening column (probably monthly to start with) concentrating on politics in the “rest of the world” – ie outside the US and UK.

Cheers & all the best

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