Obama Slips In Indiana, Site Of 2008 Upset Win

On Election Day, Barack Obama stopped by a campaign office in Indianapolis to work the phones. i i

High Priority: On Election Day, Barack Obama stopped by a campaign office in Indianapolis to work the phones. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Raedle/Getty Images
On Election Day, Barack Obama stopped by a campaign office in Indianapolis to work the phones.

High Priority: On Election Day, Barack Obama stopped by a campaign office in Indianapolis to work the phones.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Republican win in the special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat long held by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy is a measure of the political difficulties facing President Obama and fellow Democrats.

It's also a far cry from the campaign of '08, when the president claimed a big victory by winning reliably Republican states such as Indiana, which had voted Republican in presidential races since 1964.

Obama took the oath of office one year ago this morning, winning thanks to highly energized Democrats, Republican apathy and strong support for Obama by independents.

Now, despite several visits to the state, the president's approval rate in Indiana is slipping.

At Zinszers Bakery in Anderson, Ind., a makeshift sign offers a lure to fans of the Indianapolis Colts as the team makes a run for the Super Bowl — a sign promising Colts Cookies.

Rachel Murdock, the shop's chief baker, is a Democrat. She voted for Obama, she says, and has no complaints with the president.

Rachel Murdock displays a tray of Colts cookies at Zinszer's Cookies in Anderson, Ind. i i

Rachel Murdock displays a tray of Colts cookies at Zinszer's Cookies in Anderson, Ind. Evie Stone/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Evie Stone/NPR
Rachel Murdock displays a tray of Colts cookies at Zinszer's Cookies in Anderson, Ind.

Rachel Murdock displays a tray of Colts cookies at Zinszer's Cookies in Anderson, Ind.

Evie Stone/NPR

"He inherited an economy in a complete downturn; two wars that just — our troops should already have been pulled home from," Murdock said.

"I feel it's going to take him a little bit more time to get everything untangled from what they had thrown at him."

The city of Anderson is in Madison County, right in the state's midsection. It was once a company town, boasting 25,000 General Motors manufacturing jobs. But over the past three decades, they've all disappeared. Every one of them.

Among the bakery's customers is Don Williams, 61, who was laid off from two jobs in the past two years. He lost his house and his pension. Now he delivers auto parts, but his income's been cut in half.

And his story is not unusual — Williams says this county has been dealing with tough times for many, many years now, so people here are less likely to expect a quick fix. He did vote for President Obama and still backs him, he says. But he does have one gripe, about the Wall Street bailout.

"Give us the money instead of giving it to the banks where they won't loan the money out to you or the mortgage companies where they won't loan it out to you. And let us spend it," Williams said.

"Because if they would've given me money, I could have paid my house off and saved everything."

George W. Bush won this county in both 2000 and 2004. But in 2008, like the state as a whole, it flipped and went Democratic, driven by economic worries and by the intense enthusiasm of Obama supporters.

Today, that enthusiasm has diminished. A new Indiana poll puts Obama's approval rating at 44 percent; 53 percent disapprove.

"Substantively, I think he's rubbed Hoosiers the wrong way on multiple fronts," said Gov. Mitch Daniels, the state's Republican governor.

"Clearly the deficits and the apparent reckless disregard for spending levels doesn't fit the way people here want to see their government conducted," Daniels said.

Back in Anderson one night last week, a group of about 20 local business owners gathered for their regular networking meeting.

There were Republicans and Democrats, and independents like Kishan Siran, who runs a small technology firm. Siran voted for Obama and still believes him, despite some mixed feelings about White House economic policy.

"I'm pragmatic," Siran said. "After you become president, you have to deal with the Congress, you have to deal with the Senate, you have to do a lot of wheeling and dealing. That's the nature of democracy out here, you know. So I think he has good intent."

Then there's Republican Chuck Kile, owner of a local Skyline Chili restaurant, who says he has never been an Obama supporter. Health care is the issue that angers him the most. Kile says he has attended anti-Obama rallies organized by the Tea Party movement.

"I kind of wonder if Mr. Obama and some of the other people that are in the White House and the Congress, I wonder if they could just go through the process of what we have to do every week to make a payroll for 20 people," Kile said. "I don't think they've got a clue of how that happens."

But others who did not vote for Obama were more generous, at least offering goodwill and hope for the new president. DeWayne Landwehr runs a business resource center in Anderson. He voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008.

"When Obama won, I decided at that point, I want to give this guy a try. I want this guy to succeed," Landwehr said. "So I was ready and open to say, let's see what you got. Let's see what you're gonna do for the country."

But now Landwehr says he's very disappointed. "I think there is a lot of buyer's remorse," he said.

It's not hard to find anger and frustration when you ask people in Indiana. But even in these uncertain times, it's not hard to find patience, either.

Much of the Midwest took an economic hit years before the current national downturn.

People tell you they know there's no quick fix. And absent an election like the one held in Massachusetts Tuesday, any buyers' remorse regarding the president has nowhere to go.

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