One place that Republicans are sweating over is southern Indiana. Linda Wertheimer and Reena Advani, one of our most gracious producers, have been driving through corn and soybean country to plumb the minds of voters who sent Republicans to the House in 2004. Why do so many people who've never traveled in the Midwest think the landscape must be dull?
Here's how Linda reacted:
"Southern Indiana as I saw it yesterday must be one of the most beautiful places around. We drove north from Evansville very early in the morning, just after sunrise. When we crossed I-64 and drove up into the country we were looking at mist rising from the fields, all tinted pink by the sunrise, and barns, silos and fields and fields of corn. It looked like beautiful and prosperous country, as, in fact, it is."
But Linda and Reena have also found that members of a book club in a tiny town are furious about the war in Iraq. And President Bush's supporters are on the defensive, according to Linda:
This is obviously a great place to grow corn. We saw signs all along the roads, stuck into the ground at the end of rows of corn with seed company names and numbers. Apparently, farmers drive around and check out how certain varieties do — kind of like window shopping for corn with an eye toward what to plant next year. It was incredibly hot and the sun was very bright. Not so good for people, but clearly great for corn.
In a little town in Gibson County we met a group of friends, mostly retired, who drift from coffee shop to coffee shop in the early morning. There seems to be some feeling that they ought to divide their business equally among their friends who run the little restaurants and patronize each of them every day. They have routines: Some start on Main Street, some start on the highway and they overlap, visit and move on.
They were happy to talk politics with the Democratic candidate who's trying to unseat the Republican member of Congress in Indiana's southwestern district. Health care seemed to be most on their minds, along with the price of gas. That's what we're finding in other parts of the state as well. However, when we stopped to talk with members of a book club in a small (very small) town called Dale, Ind., we found a lot of anger about the war in Iraq. And supporters of the president were feeling defensive. We've grown used to thinking of Indiana as a solid GOP state, certainly in presidential years, but this year, there are three Republican House seats that could go Democratic and another GOP seat that's looking a little shaky.
We'll be in urban areas of eastern Indiana today, checking with a Rotary Club, among other things. We'll see what they're thinking about the president and if they feel he'll affect the races in 2006. Also, we're headed for one of the prettiest places along the Ohio: the town of Madison. And if we have time, I'm hoping to take Reena Advani to see the enormous photograph (five stories high or something like that) of Col. Bob Edwards on the Kentucky side of the river. Last time I was there, they had huge pictures of great Louisvillians (Bob, Diane Sawyer, and Col. Sanders, to name a few) plastered on the ends of buildings.
I'm enjoying this trip very much. Asking voters what they think is much more fun than asking the polls. And, of course, the answers are much less predictable. See you soon.