Obama fighting hard for Indiana
Originally posted on 2008-10-20 09:35:50 -0500. Bumped by Carol. I think that we are seeing the fracturing of the Republican Party and none to soon. Colin Powell's endorsement should help the process along even further.
If Indiana turns blue at last, it won't be simply because of overwhelming turnout in Lake County or the Democratic cities like Indianapolis and Bloomington. If Indiana turns blue, it will be because Indiana Hoosiers are disgusted with the Bush Administration... and because Obama has run a terrific ground offensive in this state. He has done what many (including myself) might have thought impossible: he is making serious headway in the wealthy Republican suburbs that ring Indianapolis:
Bruce Babcock, a lifelong Republican and a retired executive with a Fortune 100 company, had no reluctance about advertising his newfound political allegiance with an Obama sign. "Bush has not done a very good job. And the Republicans don't deserve another chance at all." Babcock’s last words were designed to underscore that he has no animus toward McCain: "They'd have to resurrect Lincoln to get me to vote Republican."
This is actually hard for me to visualize, because I used to live in the area bordering Dan Burton's district, and it is about as GOP as GOP gets. But I have been hearing for months that there is a quiet revolt happening in the White, Republican suburbs. Republicans in the wealthy suburbs that encircle Indianapolis are turning on the GOP and mobilizing for Obama:
Westfield, Indiana, is at the very center of Hamilton County, one of the most Republican counties in the country, and the location of my home. It was in my home that a couple of dozen Republicans for Obama (RFOs) met last week to socialize. Yes, I said Republicans for Obama, a phenomenon similar to the Reagan Democrats of the 80's. While the GOP is denying we exist as a movement, the Obama campaign is prepping to support our group on a national level with a presence on barackobama.com as well as staffer support for meetings like this one.
My wife, Sharon, and I have been Republicans since Reagan's first term. We hosted this first "Central Indiana Republicans for Obama In Home Social" on the evening of Thursday, July 24th. Two dozen Republicans attended, as well as several members of the Obama campaign who came to show their support for our nonpartisan efforts. Even a reporter from The Indianapolis Star attended to report on what could be said to be a historic event.
And that was only August.
Finding Democratic voters in fast-growing suburban Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis, seems as unlikely as spying a herd of giraffes frolicking in a mall parking lot. In 2004, Bush rolled up the kind of victory in Hamilton County that Vladimir Putin might envy -- obliterating Kerry by 51,000 votes with a 74 to 25 percent margin. Yet Obama has two storefront offices in the county (among 44 offices statewide) and is running an aggressive canvassing operation. This unusual commitment of resources is not lost on the Republicans. "Obama's campaign has targeted the Doughnut Counties" -- local lingo for the eight counties that ring Indianapolis --"particularly Hamilton County," says Clark, the GOP chairman. "They are targeting upscale voters, particularly women."
About a dozen Obama canvassers headed out Saturday morning from the newly opened campaign headquarters in affluent Carmel; I accompanied Barbara Kirk, a retired psychotherapist wearing a black Obama T-shirt with a peace sign in place of the "O," and Beth Maier, a photographer who just moved to Indiana with her husband, a medical scientist. They were making the rounds in the Smokey Ridge neighborhood, where houses list for about $500,000. Carmel, where 89 percent of all high school graduates attend four-year colleges, is not anything like a typical Indiana community. But this is an area where the downside of the Bush era's hard-right tilt of the Republican Party can be observed -- as upscale moderate voters who might be attracted to John McCain for economic reasons recoil because of the social conservatism symbolized by Palin's presence on the ticket.
Laurie Dwyer, a youthful looking 62-year-old woman wearing a Citadel T-shirt (her husband's alma mater), is just this sort of repentant Bush 2004 voter. "I don't say that I'm a Democrat or a Republican," Dwyer told the Obama canvassers, after admitting that she would be voting for their candidate. "I just think that McCain did us all an injustice by choosing his running mate. McCain has made so many mistakes running his campaign, who knows what he would do as president." Offered an Obama lawn sign, Dwyer, presumably thinking about the reaction of her neighbors, said softly, "I better not." (Her precinct went for Bush in 2004 by a vote of 780 to 247.)
But not only the wealthy Hoosiers are 'getting it.' Indiana has been slammed by enormous factory job losses. We're being hammered by weather changes that have threatened our corn crops (alternating floods and droughts -- the weather here has been spooky even by unpredictable Indiana standards.) And the Indiana unemployment rate is now the highest that it has been in over 20 years.
Hoosiers aren't stupid. I've kept my ear to the ground, and have struck up conversations in rural restaurants, hardware stores, and with repairmen who have come to our house. Every conversation has turned to outrage with Bush, comments about how our government has gone 'straight to hell,' or about the ill treatment of returning war veterans.
I recall one conversation that I had with a repairman last year. He came to our house to fix our plumbing, and ended up spending an extra 20 minutes ranting about how badly his brother was treated when he returned from Desert Storm. He died from the strange 'Gulf War' illness that affected many returning vets, and according to the account I heard, he received little if any medical treatment from the government. When he died, his brother the repairman was outraged that the military would only provide a taped recording of Taps for his funeral. This is Indiana; blue-collar, working class Indiana.
People here are angry. People here are more than ready for change. All they want to hear is that someone really means the political rhetoric and really understands the suffering.
Back to the Salon essay:
But if Obama wins the state, more than anything it will be due to the best voter-contact operation Indiana has ever seen. Even Murray Clark, the Indiana Republican chairman, says with grudging admiration in his voice, "Obama's done these things right. That's how he nearly beat Hillary in the primary."
Ignored for decades by presidential candidates, Indiana in 2004 boasted a dubious distinction -- the lowest turnout rate among registered voters (57.4 percent) of any state in the union. Had the Obama campaign been pinched for cash instead of raking in a jaw-dropping $150 million in September, Indiana probably would have remained the Midwest's leading flyover state. Instead, buoyed by the primary turnout, the Obama team saw opportunity amid the decades of neglect. As Emily Parcell, the Indiana Obama coordinator puts it, "Unlike Iowa, where every election is hard fought and where a good field operation can add only about 3 percentage points, there is a much greater opportunity for a good field operation here. Hoosiers are not used to Democrats coming to their door. They're not used to being told about early voting."
If you live in Indiana, get out there and talk to people! Or simply listen and then tell them how you feel about Barack Obama. You may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.