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Indiana, in my opinion, is one of the most exciting states in politics right now.  After going for George W. Bush by 16% and 20% in uncontested races, Obama contested the state heavily despite its "Safe Republican" status.  He managed to win by a single point, 50-49.  Despite this, the state was not contested in in 2012, and Romney won by 10%, still a pretty big swing in 8 years.

The question we have to ask is whether or not Indiana is approaching swing state status.  Though we probably don't need it to win Presidential elections, making a red state competitive provides us a cushion and a possibility of two additional Democratic Senators.    I think the best thing we can do is look at recent statewide results, along with exit polls, and see how viable the state is to contest.  For the purposes of this diary, I am going to assume that exit polls are accurate.

Governor's Elections

Indiana has elected moderate Democratic Governors in the past, but swung towards the Republicans recently.  The moderate Evan Bayh, a legacy politician, was reelected by over 25 points in 1992, with two relatively easy victories following for Lt. Governor Frank O'Bannon.  In 2004, the state swung back towards Republicans, with the conservative-minded but moderate-sounding Mitch Daniels being elected by 8%.  Despite Obama's narrow win in the state, Daniels was reelected by 18 points over a moderate Congresswoman.  In 2012, conservative Republican Mike Pence was narrowly elected by 3 points, despite Romney's 10 point win.  The Libertarian candidate pulled in 4%, a very good showing a third party candidate with no money.

What this says to me is that Hoosiers have been willing to elect moderate Democrats despite an inherent Republican bias, but that they've grown more partisan in the past decade.  Daniel's election and reelection were natural in a red state after 16 years of Democratic Governors, but Pence's election, however narrow, indicates that Republican voters are becoming more hard-line.

Senate Elections

We're just going to look at 2010 and 2012 here, since the previous elections featured long-term, popular incumbents.  In the Republican wave of 2010, Senator Dan Coats (R) was elected to a second non-consecutive term in an open seat against Rep. Brad Ellsworth, a moderate Congressman, by 15%.  I think the strong margin against a legitimate contender backs up what I said above: Republican-leaning voters are hardening in their partisanship.

2012 was a bit of an anomaly, and it's so widely known among political people that I'm not going to bother going over it again.  Suffice to say that a moderate Democratic Congressman beat a foot-in-mouth Tea Partier by 6%.  The Libertarian candidate took a little under 6%.  What this says to me is that the Republican floor in Indiana is around 44%.  That represents the hard partisans.

Presidential Elections

Here's the important part.  I want to break this down by demographic categories.

Race

The drop in the white vote here was a bit odd.  It dropped just 1%, from 89 to 88, from 2004 to 2008, but dropped 4 points to 84% by 2012.  Obama's weak performance with white voters tells the story of the state's 11-point swing towards Romney: He went from a 54-45 loss to a 60-38 loss.  This is, of course, not a pure swing; the campaign was organized and spent heavily here in 2008, and didn't in 2012.  I'm sure the loss would have been much more narrow if the state were contested, but as it stands, we should compare the swing from 2004 to 2012 to get a true picture of how voting patterns have changed.  Kerry lost white voters 65-34, while Obama lost them 60-38.  That's a meaningful swing towards Democrats, and it's conceivable that an organized effort in the state could produce a single digit loss among white voters once again.

8% of Indiana voters were black in 2012, up from 7% in 2008 and 2004.  The Democrat got about 90% each time.  I doubt either number will improve much, but the fact that Kerry did as well with African Americans as Obama bodes well for us.

Only 2008 exit polls have data for Hispanics; they made up 4% of the electorate and went for Obama 77-23.  You can infer that they were probably 6% in 2012, assuming Asians and Others didn't triple in that time-frame.  This makes Hoosier Hispanics more Democratic than they are nationwide, and they will probably continue to grow by 1-2% over the next few election cycles.  

So, the white vote is solidly Republican, but both swinging towards us and shrinking slowly.  The minority vote is solidly in the Democratic column, moreso than it is nationwide, and is growing slowly.

Age

The trends for voters based on age are as one would expect, with one notable exception: young voters, 18-29.  After favoring Obama by 28% in 2008, they narrowly went for Romney in 2012 by 3%, a massive 31 point swing towards Republicans.  They went for Bush by 5% in 2004, but made up a much smaller portion of the electorate.

You can't say this made the race, but it certainly had a gigantic impact.  The national swing towards Romney with young voters was just 11%; this is nearly triple.  Youth participation decreasing was not a factor, by the way.  It actually increased by one point.  Clearly, this is an area that needs some focus.

Age and Race seem to be the most important demographic factors in explaining our performance here.  So what does all of this say about Indiana becoming a swing state?  Demographic changes will help us a bit relative to the environment, as they will everywhere.  But the key is going after young voters.  As I said above, it seems to me that about 44% of Hoosiers are hard, Republican partisans.  That's a pretty high floor, but I would assume (perhaps incorrectly) that these tend to be older voters.  I doubt that many of the young voters who swung towards Romney are hard partisans as well.  So, in addition to keeping minority turnout high, the most important thing Indiana Democrats can do is to go after the youth vote hard.  College campuses, young professionals, young blue collar workers, etc.  If we can reverse that swing (which I really am at a loss to explain), we can make this a purple state.

Originally posted to Trosk on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 09:24 AM PDT.

Also republished by Indianapolis Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting analysis (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CroneWit, Chas 981, AnnieR, Odysseus

    I grew up in Indiana (a long time ago) so I am always curious what is going on in the cornfields.

    I have traveled back occasionally to visit family while alive and I have seen a lot of churches and religious license plates.  On the other hand, the people are caring and friendly and helpful on a one-on-one basis.  I got hopelessly lost on one trip and a stranger at a gas station drove in front of me in his pickup until I was on the right road again.

    If I were trying to market a campaign there, I would talk about responsibility - hardworking, helpful Hoosiers, who respect others' privacy.  And then tie that to the Democratic platform.

    www.tapestryofbronze.com

    by chloris creator on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 10:34:26 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for mentioning Indiana (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus

    as a state for the Democratic Party to take action in.  Tipped and rec'd for that alone.

    •  It makes a lot of sense (0+ / 0-)

      There are only 10 states (approximately; going off of memory here) that voted for a different party in Presidential elections between 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.  Indiana is one of them, and it is the only one not considered a swing state.  The other 40 went for the same party all four times, including perennial swing states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

      •  Dem Party should treat Indiana like Ohio (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus

        imo.  Or perhaps like Pennsylvania, where (from what I've seen) the rural populations are courted.

        The southern two-thirds of IN should be recognized as an extension of  Appalachia, like Northern KY; the culture and poverty rates are very similar.  Including this area would require lots of on-the-ground work, going to the Persimmon Fairs and such, so the people could get familiar with candidates (and Democrats in general) and see them a human beings.

        The northern one third (from about Lafayette northward) was settled later by a different population, and is more (generally) Germanic/Nordic in its culture, with farming being in many families history (before the accumulation of small farms by agri-business began).

        'Da Region' and Indianapolis each have their own urban cultures, where the splitting of votes along racial lines is well-established.

        IMO the Democratic Party needs to get behind the Congressional Progressive Caucus' 'Better-Off Budget' and use it as a (f not 'the') central part of their outreach to the -- well to the 99% and the 47%.  Hoosiers are very sharply aware of class divisions and understand in their bones that The Rich get their way and The Others get nothing (except punishment from The Rich if they try to act like equal human beings.  The understanding of reality expressed in the lyrics of Mellencamp's 'Why Fight Authority' are so much a part of the cultural reality that children believe it -- or at least know that they're supposed to believe it, as a cautionary stance for living in the real world -- by about age 9.)

        Hoosiers also know in their bones that 'there's no difference between 'em' (the political parties).  They know this because our significant Democratic politicians have been Lee Hamilton and Evan Bayh.  So the Dem Party's current 'we suck a little less' stance won't fly, as far as gaining voters.  They'll stick with the devil they know.

        Dems could also make good use of comparing the ACA health care  now enjoyed by Kentuckians with the absence of same for Hoosiers, with blame for that absence being laid squarely on the GOP Governor Mike Pence and his Attorney General.  This, I think, would work especially well in the southern part of the state, but could also be used state-wide.  (A strange part of Hoosier culture is the belief that Hoosiers are 'just like' Kentuckians, but superior; mining this old indignation re ACA -- ie, 'You don't get health care when even Kentuckians have it 'cause your damn Republican government won't let you!' would play nicely into the old IN/KY rivalry as well as the Hoosiers' natural distrust and resentment of 'the government'.

        All just imo, after a lifetime as a participant-observer.

        Will the Dem Party do any of this?  Not on your life.

  •  The youth vote? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CroneWit

    Oh, you mean the vote of people who are leaving the state in droves?  

    "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

    by Yamaneko2 on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 10:58:43 AM PDT

    •  The more affluent, better-educated leave (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus

      but there are lots of less-affluent young folks here who are stuck here by poverty.  And a lot of them are plenty smart, even if their speech patterns are not those of an educated person.

      If the Democratic Party would promote the Congressional Progressive Caucus' 'Better-Off Budget', that would make perfect sense to a lot of low-income Millennial in Indiana and elsewhere.  If the Dem Party gives these younger folks 'more of the same', they will see the Dems as 'just as bad as the GOP' and stay away from voting booths in droves.

  •  Maybe (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CroneWit, Odysseus

    But I'm not seeing a shift that says younger, blue collar voters are looking for corporate, moderate democrats here in Hoosierland.   I'm seeing some reasonable people turned off by tea party and crony Republicans looking for more down to earth representation.   For example:  Lane Siekman

  •  Indiana Always Scared me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chas 981, Odysseus

    ...Too many white people.  

    That, and Indiana native Kurt Vonnegut's riff on "Sundown Towns"  (look it up) in Breakfast of Champions."

    If we could ever get enough whites to stop voting on the basis of racism we could break the logjam in the body politic and ensuing deluge would sink the Koch Brothers like rocks over Niagrara Falls.

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

    by Kangaroo on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 11:25:19 AM PDT

    •  "Sunset neighborhoods" (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus

      I remember reading about so-called sunset neighborhoods in the city of Seattle. Basically the idea was, "you better not be black in this neighborhood after sunset." Is that what Vonnegut was talking about with sundown towns?

      Indiana is a bit of a scary place to me because of its history in the 1920s. They said you couldn't get elected to office if you weren't a member of the Ku Klux Klan (not the original KKK, but the 1920s version, which was very anti-Catholic and anti-Jewish, but also anti-black). Then the grand exalted leader of the Indiana KKK was caught drugging and raping an underage girl and the KKK kind of faded away. But I think there might still be some lingering racism in Indiana.

      "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

      by Dbug on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 05:58:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, that's it exactly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dbug

        I used to work for the Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana, which is right on the border with Texas, and in a rural area where racism hasn't much changed since the 1930s.  It's real close to Jena, of the Jena 6 fame, and Jasper, Texas, where James Byrd was dragged to death.  A friend asked me to work a second job part time teaching a class for one of the colleges which have satellite campii on military bases.  Most of the students were soldiers or their spouses, but there was one guy in one class there who was from Hornbeck, a hamlet north of there which was known as a sundown town.  He was white, of course, and most of the students were African-American, Jamaican, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, and so on.  Yet he felt it was perfectly fine to wear a cap with a confederate battle flag on it.  He did not say much but he stopped coming to class about halfway through.  I wondered if I was going to end up like Richard Pryor in the picture on his comedy album where he was about to be lynched by the Klan because, as the album was titled, "Was It something I Said?"

        The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

        by Kangaroo on Thu Apr 03, 2014 at 11:38:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There is an interactive map of the US (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus

      where you can explore Sundown Towns in every state, including Indiana, towns with a Black population of 0.

      Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism by James W. Loewen

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBustersā„¢

      by Mokurai on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 11:26:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Can't analyze Indiana in isolation. (0+ / 0-)

    Indiana is right next door to Illinois, and their politics are suffused with that fact.

    Furthermore, Indiana in both attitude and geography has a Collar County effect which drives up Republican voting behavior.

    It's interesting that demographics are changing, but there will always be a slight bias.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 01:51:08 PM PDT

    •  'Da Region' in NW IN is the 'collar' to Chicago (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus

      and it is a densely-populated area which, along with the Indianapolis area, is home to most of IN's POC population.  Those two areas, plus some of the counties with Universities, are pretty reliably Blue.

  •  Yes (0+ / 0-)

    By my reading of the demographics, it should reach a balance in about ten years, and be fairly swingy a bit before that. By that time, the current swing states should be reliably blue. Texas should also tip in ten years, because its demographic changes are moving even faster.

    Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBustersā„¢

    by Mokurai on Wed Apr 02, 2014 at 11:29:42 PM PDT

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