In 2006, Indiana was the harbinger of doom for Republicans. With their polls closing early and three vulnerable Rep-held seats, you knew the election would be bad when all three of them fell. With any luck, 2010 can be the reverse. All three of those seats are once again competitive, and perhaps all three can switch back to Red. It’ll still be tough to do, but tough is not impossible. So while the Senate seat is the big draw here, keep your eye on the House as well.
The big question is whether or not the 2008 election was an anomaly or not. Indiana’s swing left was, if I recall correctly, the largest in the nation. How a state that went from a reliably Republican state surrounded by blue states to voting for Obama (this is despite the fact that he only got ~50% in the primary against Hillary) is beyond me. Even weirder, it happened at the same time that the state was reelecting Mitch Daniels (the mild-mannered version of Chris Christie) as governor by a wide margin. So is Indiana’s experiment with leftism over? We hope so.
During the primary, we had proof that the Tea Party is very active in the state, but unfortunately their presence can be summed up as “close but no cigar.” While Stutzman’s challenge of Coats was well known, two Republican incumbents in the House were nearly picked off, and would have been if the anti-incumbent votes weren’t split. Let us hope they don’t become discouraged by these results, and that there’s still enough enthusiasm in November.
Note: for all potentially competitive seats, I’ll include in parenthesis which of the big three issues the incumbent voted for (ST: stimulus, CT: Cap & Trade, HC: health care).
Dem held seats – 5
Safe seats – 2
1) Peter Visclosky vs Mark Leyva
7) Andre Carson vs Marvin Scott
IN-01 is Gary, IN-07 is Indianapolis, so the chances of winning either one of these is slim. Mark Leyva is the perennial candidate in the first district, and keeps losing 70-30. And while Carson is a freshman, she won 65-35 in 08, and Bush didn’t get above 43% in this district.
Competitive seats – 2
2) Joe Donnelly (ST, HC) vs Jackie Walorski
The second district is the purplest district in Indiana, being the only one that voted for both Bush and Obama. In other words, to win here, Republicans need to bring their A team… and you can’t argue much with who they got. Jackie Walorski is a popular State Rep from South Bend and a blunt, outspoken conservative. She can raise money, articulate conservative values, and attack Donnelly for not being as conservative as he claims to be. Needless to say, claiming to be Pro-Life and voting for Obamacare isn’t going to fly in this strongly Catholic district, regardless of what Notre Dame says. Donnelly is certainly nervous, as he’s apparently already commissioned two polls this year. Frankly, I wouldn’t have expected this one to be competitive except that Donnelly voted for Obamacare. There were angry town halls here just like the rest of the nation, and I don’t think you can count on the Independents to support the Dems on this one.
9) Baron Hill (ST, CT, HC) vs Todd Young
Hill took his first name to heart when he showed up on Youtube hilariously demanding that he shouldn’t be videotaped in fear of showing up on Youtube. That worked out well, didn’t it? Young, meanwhile, is an attorney who survived a challenging 3 way primary (all three had over 30% of the vote), basically being more establishment that Travis Harkins and more conservative than Sodrel. He’s proven himself adept on the election field, and should give Hill a run for his money if he can get the fractured Rep primary voters behind him. At the very least, his fundraising’s been pretty good, and the demographics favor him. From what I can tell, Hill isn’t all that popular among the left, so while they will defend him, I don’t expect an all out blitz from the netroots to save him. The Cook PVI is R+6, Bush won 59-40 in 2004, and Hill’s nasty attitude and the fact that it’s NOT Sodrel’s 5th attempt to unseat him will hopefully be enough to get his constituents to fire him. For the record, a Sodrel internal poll from way back in March had him tied with Hill, so presumably Young is in the same range as well.
Lean takeover seats – 1
8 ) Trent Van Haaften vs Larry Bucshon (open)
Blue Dog Brad Ellsworth abandoned this seat to run for the Senate, and the Dem party establishment chose Van Haaften as his replacement. Meanwhile, Dr. Larry Bucshon survived a tough primary against Tea Party activist Kristi Risk. This is the reddest seat of the three (Bush won 62-38 in ’04), and it’s an open seat to boot. To give you an idea of just how red it is, Van Haaften was actually courting the Tea Party. Not a bad idea, but after the district got burned by Ellsworth on the health care bill, do you think they’ll trust another “conservative” Dem? I don’t think so. Bucshon appears to be solidly conservative and can raise money, so he’s got a pretty good shot here. The Dems are already running ads against him, so you know they’re worried.
Rep held seats – 4
Safe seats – 4
3) Mark Souder vs Tom Hayhurst
4) Todd Rokita vs David Sanders (open)
5) Dan Burton vs Tim Crawford
6) Mike Pence vs Barry Welsh
If it wasn’t for the fact that this is a Republican year and these are deep Red districts, I’d have a hard time declaring the first three to be safe. After all, the 4th is an open seat, and Souder and Burton performed terribly in the primaries (Souder also perennially underperforms on election day). But if these guys weren’t cut down in 2008, they’re not going to be cut down now. With any luck, Souder and Burton can both be knocked out in the primary come 2012, but I’d prefer they stick around until then. And with 3 other House races, a Senate race, and a very close State House (held by Dems 52-48), I can’t see anyone pouring money into these races.
There’s a pretty good chance here that Indiana will swing back heavily to Republicans this year, wiping out all of the gains made by the Dems in 2006 and 2008. I don’t know if all three seats will flip, but it’d be nice to get at least two of them. As long as the competitive primaries didn’t create a lot of bad blood, Indiana will hopefully be fun to watch in November.