Back to the Wall, McCain to Go On-Air in Indiana
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Sep 23, 2008 at 01:13:33 PM EDT
Ben Smith reports:
Two sources say McCain's ad campaign is set to extend to Indiana, a reliably Republican state where local polling has long showed Obama unexpectedly strong, and where Obama has been running a full-scale campaign.
The GOP move is a sign of concern on a map that seems to shift almost daily.
To give a bit of historical perspective as to why this is huge, huge news, the Democrats have only carried the state of Indiana four times since 1892 -- during the routs that were 1912 (Wilson v. Taft v. T. Roosevelt), 1932 (F. Roosevelt v. Hoover), 1936 (F. Roosevelt v. Landon) and 1964 (Johnson v. Goldwater -- meaning that they have lost the state even while winning the presidency eight times in the past 115 years. Even more to the point, no Democrat in the last 30 years has received more than 41.55 percent of the vote in the state, with the average Democratic showing during that time period of 39.09 percent. In short, Indiana is generally infertile ground for Democrats on the presidential level, so news of even the Republicans considering the state to be in play is rather noteworthy.
To get a little more current, recent polling has shown Indiana to be significantly closer than it has been historically, with John McCain's lead sitting at 2.5 points according to Pollster.com and 2.3 points according to Real Clear Politics. A survey conducted by the widely respected Ann Selzer actually gave Barack Obama a 47 percent to 44 percent lead.
There are at least a couple important reasons why this race is close. For one, Obama's 50-state strategy is paying dividends, as the campaign's organizing and advertising has moved numbers in Indiana. Additionally, although some complained that the primaries lasted too long, that they hurt the Democrats, Indiana -- as well as North Carolina, and even Oregon -- are great examples of the intense primary aiding the Democratic efforts down the road. Had it not been the case that both the Obama campaign and the Clinton campaign were actively campaigning in these states, registering and contacting voters, it's difficult to imagine Indiana being on the map today.
Finally, it's worth reiterating a point that Smith relayed: This is a sign of weakness for the McCain campaign. Republicans believed that they had Indiana in the bag. But just as was the case in Florida, the McCain campaign has had to readjust its expectations and shift its limited resources to a state the Republicans have more often than not won in presidential elections. The national race may be tight, but when it comes to the race for 270, the map doesn't look half bad for Obama with several paths -- including the state of Indiana -- for reaching an electoral college majority.
Update [2008-9-23 17:41:7 by Jonathan Singer]: Smith now says the McCain campaign is denying this report, though not necessarily that the RNC will run ads in the state. I'll update when Smith does, but the point does stand regardless of whether the GOP is advertising in the state -- Obama is running historically strongly in Indiana and has a real shot at carrying its electoral votes.