Hoosier State Prepares for Important Primary In the ongoing battle to earn the Democratic presidential nomination, the primary race now moves to Indiana and North Carolina, states that host primaries on May 6. Indiana, however, is where the race appears to be closest between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
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Hoosier State Prepares for Important Primary

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Hoosier State Prepares for Important Primary

Hoosier State Prepares for Important Primary

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The other votes the candidates are pursuing aggressively now belong to the residents of Indiana. We wanted to get a sense of how the race is playing there, so we called Matthew Tully. He's a political columnist for the Indianapolis Star, and he joined me on the line from his office. Good morning.

Mr. MATTHEW TULLY (Political Columnist, Indianapolis Star): Good morning. How are you?

MONTAGNE: Fine, thank you very much. Now, so much of the nomination battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has come down to the demographics. Tell us what those demographics are in Indiana.

Mr. TULLY: Here in Indiana, the main things that probably will define our electorate in the primary are a lot of people that struggling economically. We lag the country in income. It's a majority white state by far - roughly 86 percent. In the Democratic primary, though, you're probably going to get about 20 to 25 percent African-Americans voting, so that should help Barack Obama.

We have a number of decent size cities, a couple of urban cores - such as Lake County, which is home to Gary, and Marion County, which is home to Indianapolis - where Obama seems to be doing well. But we also have a lot of senior citizens, a lot of small towns, where Hillary Clinton is playing well.

MONTAGNE: Just curious - if Indiana is so similar, as it sounds, to Pennsylvania demographically, why is the race so much closer there in Indiana?

Mr. TULLY: I think one key element to Indiana is a huge chunk of our state is tied to Chicago. The northwest Indiana part of the state, they watch Chicago TV, they listen to Chicago radio. It's a Democratic stronghold that produces probably 15 to 16 percent of the Democratic vote, and that just happens to be in the Chicago media market, which is Obama's home base.

So these are folks that watched him grow up as a politician over the years. So he's not a new face to him. They've seen him from the beginning.

MONTAGNE: Now, it's only 12 days until the primary. You certainly know that better than I do. But - so have you seen at this point in time a lot of the candidates?

Mr. TULLY: Oh, absolutely. Roughly about four weeks ago, we started getting the visits when it became clear that Indiana was probably going to have a role in this for the first time in 40 years. So we started seeing visits, by the Clintons especially. Up till now, I believe they've had 50 visits between Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton. So they've crisscrossed the state, and they've been here a lot.

Barack Obama hasn't been here as much, but he's been here quite a bit. And he's been airing commercials, just like you saw in Pennsylvania, at a lot higher rate than Hillary Clinton. So, we've seen a lot of them, but it's clearly already picked up in the past couple days with the end of the Pennsylvania primary on Tuesday.

Negative mailings from both campaigns were landing in Hoosier mailboxes, which kind of gives you a sense that they really know they have 12 days to focus on Indiana. Up till now, the campaign's been pretty positive here in Indiana. So the negative mailings that went out this week are really the first thing that we saw in this show that they were going to be fighting.

Sure, we've seen the coverage from other states where they've taken shots at each other. But here in Indiana, until now you, hadn't seen much of that.

MONTAGNE: How do you think people in Indiana are going to respond? Negative campaigning works most everywhere.

Mr. TULLY: We're used to it here in Indiana. We've been home to a number of competitive congressional races in recent years, and I haven't heard a whole lot of complaining from people in Indiana that they can't take a little bit of tough politics.

MONTAGNE: Are the folks in Indiana embracing their big moment in the sun?

Mr. TULLY: Absolutely. Of course, you're going to hear the scattered person who says I'm tired of hearing from these folks. But most people seem to understand that this doesn't come along a lot in Indiana, and it's been since 1968 since we had a primary that mattered.

And when you travel the state to these events, it's amazing how many people I've met who tell me stories about 1968 and RFK coming to their hometown. A lot of them have pictures of RFK at an event. I mean, that's what a big deal it is to have a presidential primary that matters in Indiana, is people are still talking about the one from 40 years ago.

MONTAGNE: Matthew Tully is the political columnist for the Indianapolis Star. Thanks very much for joining us.

Mr. TULLY: My pleasure.

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