Since so much has recently happened in Indiana, I thought I’d give my impressions of where we’re at now. I certainly look forward to the input of the several other Hoosier members here, Democrat and Republican.
Now, take what I’m saying here with a grain of salt, in that a year ago I predicted a boring, “nothing to see here” 2010 political year in Indiana. Guess I kind-of missed the mark there, but in my defense, no one else saw: Evan Bayh’s retirement, Steve Buyer’s wife’s illness, or Mark Souder’s inability to keep it in his pants. So, where do I think we stand now?
Several Congressional districts will still be more-or less uncontested: IN-01 (despite Peter Visclosky being a bit shady), IN-04 (congrats to all-but-Congressman elect Rokita), IN-05 (Danny Burton is SO EFFIN’ LUCKY he got multiple challengers), IN-06 (as much as I dislike Mike Pence’s politics, I wish he was on our side, as he’s a damn good politician), and IN-07 (Andre has settled in nicely as my Congressman).
Now to a few Congressional races where we can say a bit more about:
Indiana 02 — Joe Donnelley is all but safe, but in this district, you have to keep an eye on it in a Republican year. It boggles my mind that the GOP hasn’t found a better candidate to go against him, last cycle or this one. Let’s just say this about his opponent — they don’t call her Wacky Jacky because she sells quality pre-owned vehicles at low, low prices! Just think of how far out there you must be to be called Wacky in Indiana!
Indiana 03 — This is on the radar screen, but barely. As we’ve talked about since the Souder fall from grace last week, Dr. Hayhurst is a great candidate, I think he’ll be willing to put some of his substantial money into the race like he did in 2006, there could be a bloody battle to be the GOP candidate — but the district is so solidly Republican, it’s tough even in a good year.
Indiana 08 and 09 — I would probably see both of these as toss-ups right now. Baron Hill has proven himself a tenacious campaigner in a tough district, but can he turn out the Bloomington vote in an off-year election? Trent Van Haaften is a good choice for our candidate in the 8th, but he’s not well known yet. The Republicans BARELY chose more “establishment” candidates instead of a couple of certified flippin’ loons, so we’re going to have to see how these two races play themselves out.
The Senate Race:
Don’t believe the Rasmussen cook-the-books polls on this one. I actually feel pretty good about an Ellsworth-Coats match-up. Coats stumbled to an underwhelming primary victory, and I have a feeling he very well may have lost to Marlin Stutzman if this thing had gone on a few weeks more. He’s 67 years old and looks every day of it, while Ellsworth is young, attractive, and much more engaging.
If this is a close race, the Ellsworth/Coats map might look very different than the Obama/McCain map of 2008. I expect Ellsworth to do much better than Obama in southern Indiana, especially in the district he represented. Where I’m not sure he’ll have as much appeal is in the cherry-red Indianapolis suburbs (where Obama getting in the upper 30s was essential to his statewide win). It might come down to whether a conservative Democrat from Evansville can motivate the Democratic base in Marion County and the Region.
One other note about Brad Ellsworth, and how conservative he is. Some people here have expressed concern about his social views. I largely share those concerns. He’s far from an ideal candidate. However, unlike many other social conservatives, I don’t think he’s going to use abortion or gay marriage to hold up other important things. He’s Roman Catholic (and to my knowledge, would be the first Catholic to win major statewide office in Indiana in a long time, perhaps ever) — and I think while his views are sincerely held, I don’t see him as using them to veto everything ala a fervent Protestant fundamentalist. And remember, he did vote for HCR.
One other thing that I haven’t followed closely enough to really comment on in detail — I think it is going to be difficult for us to hold the Indiana General Assembly this fall. It is 52-48 right now, and there have been a couple of Democratic retirements in marginal districts, plus the national climate — this gives the GOP more pick-up opportunities, but we’ll see. This is important, as with the Indiana Senate and Gov. in Republican hands, the House has put the breaks on a lot of stuff. Next to Governor Daniels, the most powerful elected official in Indiana is House Speaker Pat Bauer. While no one loves him (he’s kind-of a smarmy old-time pol), he’s been a very effective speaker for our side. For example, he’s more-or-less single handedly responsible for an anti-gay marriage referendum going to the voters — not out of a committment to gay rights, but wanting to protect his members from having to vote on it.