By Greg Giroux
On Tuesday, Indiana voters will participate in a competitive Democratic presidential primary election – something Hoosier Democrats haven’t witnessed in decades and surely weren’t expecting this year.
Primary-eve polls generally are forecasting a single-digit victory for Hillary Rodham Clinton, who needs a victory in Indiana to offset an expected loss to front-running rival Barack Obama in North Carolina, where there is also a Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday.
Here are 10 questions and answers about the Indiana primary and the state’s electorate:
1. How many delegates are we talking about here? There are 72 “pledged” Indiana delegates at stake in Tuesday’s primary, of which 47 will be distributed to Clinton and Obama based on their vote shares in each of the nine congressional districts. The other 25 pledged delegates will be distributed based on the candidates’ statewide percentages.
As CQ Politics explained last week, the 47 district-level delegates are distributed among the nine congressional districts based on Democratic turnout in the 2004 elections for president and governor. The Democratic-leaning 1st and 7th Districts and the politically competitive 2nd, 8th and 9th Districts have more delegates (six) than the Republican-leaning 3rd, 4th and 5th Districts (four). The 6th District has five delegates.
2. Who can participate? Any registered voter, really. Unlike Pennsylvania, where only registered Democrats could participate in that state’s April 22 primary, Indiana has an “open” primary and does not have a system of partisan voter registration. Brian Howey, a prominent Indiana political analyst, told CQ Politics that the Democratic primary election might be decided by Republicans and independents.
3. Where are the voters? According to the office of Indiana Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita, there are 4.3 million registered voters in the state (as of Monday morning). That’s an increase of 304,000 from the beginning of the year.
Here are the 10 Indiana counties with the most registered voters. These counties taken together comprise almost 2.1 million registered voters, or close to half the statewide total:
- Marion (Indianapolis) – 652,076
- Lake (Gary, Hammond) – 285,433
- Allen (Fort Wayne) – 243,335
- St. Joseph (South Bend) – 190,840
- Hamilton (Fishers, Carmel, other Indianapolis suburbs) – 162,950
- Vanderburgh (Evansville) – 131,028
- Elkhart (Elkhart, Goshen) – 110,116
- Porter (Portage, Valparaiso) – 108,602
- Tippecanoe (West Lafayette) – 91,736
- Madison (Anderson) – 90,602
4. When do the polls close? Most of Indiana is in the eastern time zone; polling stations in 80 of the state’s 92 counties will close at 6 p.m. eastern time. Twelve counties – six in the northwestern part of the state and six in the southwestern part of the state – presently observe central time, so their polls will close at 7 p.m. eastern time. Gary and Evansville are in central time, but South Bend, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne are in Eastern Time.
So don’t expect any real results to come in until after 7 p.m. eastern time.
5. Where is the vote coming from? Early returns are not necessarily precursors of final results, especially in Indiana. Obama is expected to do well in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, and in Lake County, particularly in black-majority Gary and in some other cities in Chicago’s orbit. Southern Indiana is going to vote strongly for Clinton.
6. What is the racial and ethnic composition of Indiana? It’s no secret that Clinton has been winning decisively among white Democratic voters and Obama even more overwhelmingly among black Democratic voters. As of the 2000 census, Indiana was 86 percent white, 8 percent black and 4 percent Hispanic – making it less racially and ethnically diverse than the nation (69 percent white, 12 percent black and 13 percent Hispanic).
The black vote in Indiana is very heavily concentrated in Indianapolis and in northwestern Indiana, in cities like Gary and East Chicago. In just five Indiana counties are African-Americans at least 10 percent of residents: Lake (25 percent); Marion (24 percent); St. Joseph (11 percent); Allen (11 percent); and La Porte (10 percent), which abuts St. Joseph to the west.
7. What are some income statistics for Indiana? The median household income of Indiana was about $44,000 in 2005, according to Census Bureau estimates – putting Indiana around the midpoint of the nation. Obama has been doing well in upper-income areas, while Clinton has done well in lower-income areas. The highest median income ($80,000) was reported in Hamilton County, which is a fast-growing suburb of Indianapolis that is north of the capital city. The other highest-income counties in Indiana abut Marion County: Boone ($61,000); Hancock ($60,000); Hendricks ($60,000); and Johnson ($57,000).
The lowest income in Indiana was reported by in Orange County ($34,000), which is in southern Indiana, in the 9th District of Democratic Rep. Baron P. Hill . The poorest Indiana counties generally are found in the southern part of the state, or in the far eastern part of the state, on or near the Ohio border.
8. Where are there heavy concentrations of young and old voters? Obama has been doing well among younger voters, while Clinton has been polling well among older voters. Not surprisingly, the Indiana counties with the lowest median ages include colleges and universities – Tippecanoe County, which includes Purdue University in West Lafayette, and Monroe County, which includes Indiana University in Bloomington. The Indiana counties with the highest median ages are scattered throughout the state; a handful of them are in southwestern Indiana, where Clinton is expected to do very well.
9. Past as Prologue – But What If There’s No Past? The Clinton-Obama primary has put Indiana in an unusual spotlight – competitive statewide Democratic primaries just don’t occur all that often. Sen. Evan Bayh , the only Democrat to represent Indiana in the U.S. Senate in the past 27 years, didn’t face a primary opponent in 1998, when he was first elected. Democrat Frank O’Bannon, who served as governor from 1997 until his death in 2003, wasn’t challenged in his party’s primaries in 1996 and 2000. Democrat Joe Kernan, a former lieutenant governor who became governor upon O’Bannon’s death, wasn’t challenged in the 2004 Democratic primary for governor (he lost that November to Republican challenger Mitch Daniels ).
The last truly competitive Indiana Democratic presidential primary was in May 1984, when Colorado Sen. Gary Hart narrowly defeated former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, the eventual nominee. According to political analyst Rhodes Cook, “Basically, Hart won rural Indiana while Mondale had the edge in the urban centers,” and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, the third-place finisher, won Marion County.
There is a competitive gubernatorial primary on Tuesday between Jill Long Thompson, a former member of the U.S. House, and Jim Schellinger, an architect. The winner will face Daniels. It will be interesting to see how many of the voters who cast a ballot for either Clinton or Obama also choose to participate in the primary for governor.
10. Aren’t there OTHER primaries Tuesday? Speaking of the Democratic primary for governor, that’s one of several important races on Tuesday’s ballot in Indiana that have been overshadowed by the Clinton-Obama donnybrook.
Keep an eye on the Democratic primary in the Indianapolis-centered 7th District, where Democratic Rep. André Carson is seeking a full term – less than two months after he won a special election to succeed his late grandmother, Democrat Julia Carson. Six Democrats are challenging Andre Carson in the primary; his chief competitors are Woody Myers, a former health commissioner in Indiana and New York City, and state Reps. David Orentlicher and Carolene Mays. Carson recently endorsed Obama, who cut a radio ad endorsing Carson.
In the 5th District, which includes suburbs of Indianapolis, there is a Republican primary in which physician John McGoff is challenging 13-term Rep. Dan Burton. The incumbent has the edge.