Primary Not the Only Political Game in Indiana

The May 6 Clinton-Obama primary showdown isn't the only political race engaging Indiana voters. The governor's contest could have a local impact on who goes to the polls. Consultant Brian Howey discusses Hoosier politics.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

With just a little more than a week to go before the primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are bouncing back and forth between those two states.

Our co-host, Michele Norris, is in Indiana all week. And today she sat down with Brian Howey, one of the state's veteran political analysts. They ran through just some of the many challenges that Indiana poses to both candidates.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

We caught up with Brian Howey at a tea house; it's called Tea's Me, that's T-E-A-apostrophe-S Me. He's meeting here with the pollster to talk about some research they plan to release later in the week. We had a chance to talk to Brian about the political landscape here in Indiana.

So glad we're with you, Brian.

Mr. BRIAN HOWEY (Political Analyst): Welcome to Indiana.

NORRIS: Nice spot you found for us here.

Mr. HOWEY: Thank you.

NORRIS: Now, each primary, each caucus presents a new set of challenges. One of the big issues for both the candidates as they head into Indiana is the battle for blue collar voters, for white ethnic voters, and for Catholic voters. What are the challenges each candidate faces here?

Mr. HOWEY: Well, Barack Obama really needs to turn out the independent voter. He's done very well with those groups in other states. This is an open primary and so we can have Republicans and independents vote here. And I think he's going to try to feed on those voters.

Hillary Clinton is obviously looking for the older female voter, the so-called lunch bucket Democrats, even though I've never heard Hoosiers call themselves that, and they're obviously going to try to stress the small towns. They've been sending Bill Clinton into the small towns across the state to try to turn out the more rural vote, and I think that's where this race is going to be decided.

NORRIS: Hillary Clinton has been helped quite a bit by key endorsements from governors in past contests - Ed Rendell; Strickland in Ohio. She's endorsed by Evan Bayh, former governor, junior senator from Indiana. What difference will that make?

Mr. HOWEY: Well, Evan Bayh, I think, has really gotten her in the game here. Barack Obama comes from Illinois, so you figure he has the contiguous state advantage. Evan Bayh has given Hillary Clinton his legislative portfolios. For instance, they talked about not only loss their jobs but outsourced defense jobs that have gone to China.

NORRIS: Big issue for him.

Mr. HOWEY: Absolutely. This is something that he's been talking about as a U.S. senator. We've seen Hillary Clinton use that issue very effectively here. And with jobs and the economy being a key issue, they've really done a very good job in articulating that.

NORRIS: You - we caught up with you here at this tea house because you are meeting with your pollster. I know you're not officially releasing the results until tomorrow, but is there anything that you can tell us about surprising trends or issues that you're starting to see?

Mr. HOWEY: Well, again, the one that just really jumped off the page is that is - is that the Democrats are dead even on this race. Hossier Democrats support both candidates evenly, and this race will probably be determined by independent and Republican voters. And there are two sets of Republican voters that we see. We see the Obamacans, as she likes to call them, people that have heard the message; they're a little bit upset with their own party because of the war and the high gas prices and the high grocery prices and that kind of thing.

And then there are your mischievous Rush Limbaugh Republicans, who seem to think that if they vote for Hillary Clinton it will create an easier environment for John McCain in the fall.

NORRIS: And - last question - undecideds?

Mr. HOWEY: Undecideds, it's such a small category...

NORRIS: So most people have made up their minds?

Mr. HOWEY: Most people have made up their mind. I've been talking with my Democratic sources for the past month, and most of them - most people have made up their mind a long time ago. We're only looking at a pool of maybe five, maybe at the most 10 percent undecided. I think most people have taken sides.

NORRIS: Well, isn't that interesting? A tight Democratic primary could ultimately be decided by Republicans?

Mr. HOWEY: Yes, isn't that ironic?

NORRIS: And interesting.

Mr. HOWEY: And interesting.

NORRIS: Brian Howey, thanks so much.

Mr. HOWEY: Thank you.

NORRIS: Brian Howey is a political analyst. He's also the editor of Howey Politics Indiana.

SIEGEL: And our co-host, Michele Norris will be in Indiana all week reporting on the run-up to next Tuesday's Democratic primary.

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