With 20 days to go before the election, pollsters and forecasters are feverishly trying to predict the final results of what will most likely be a close election. Before the Republican primary was over, many believed that Indiana would be a battleground state this year. Obama won the state by less than 1% in the 2008 election, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had carried the state since Kennedy in 1964.
However, this year Indiana seems to be returning to its conservative roots. Indiana is one of two states that forbid robo-calls, so most polling organizations have a difficult time conducting polls in the state. The most recent poll to come out by Rasmussen Reports shows Romney at 54% and Obama at 41%. Since the margin of error is 4 points, Romney has a fairly comfortable lead over the President.
This major turnaround in the state has been known since spring of this year. Both presidential candidates have decided not to campaign in the state since it seems to be a sure win for Romney. Even Bill Clinton, who visited the state for a Democratic rally last week, barely mentioned President Obama in his speech. He focused more on Joe Donnelly, the Democratic Senate candidate who has a chance to win the U.S. Senate Seat that has been held by Republicans for the past several decades.
Key Issues in the State
Since the presidential candidates have not really visited Indiana, it has been up to other state and federal level candidates to respond to Indiana voters on important issues. As seen in both the Governor Debate and U.S. Senate Debate, the two main issues for Indiana voters are jobs and education.
The unemployment rate in Indiana rose last month to 8.3%, which is more than the current national average of 7.8%. Despite this slight rise, Indiana has had an impressive rate of growth over the past few years during the recession. Since July 2009, the state has experienced a rate of job growth of 6.5%, higher than the national average of 3.5%. Any candidate wishing to win election in the state must prove to voters that continued job growth will be a top priority.
Education is also a major issue in Indiana. The current Department of Education in the state has issued a 90-25-90 plan to encourage higher academic excellence among students. Under the direction of this plan, at least 90% of students will pass state standardized exit exams, 25% will score a 3 or higher on Advanced Placement Tests, and 90% will graduate from high school. In the past few years, Indiana has seen the percentage of high school graduates increase throughout the state. Many voters in the state want candidates to continue this progress in education.
Indiana has a total population of around 6,500,000. Within that population, around 4,300,000 are registered to voter as of 2011. In the 2008 general election, voter turnout was 62%. Analysts expect that there will be a similar level of turnout in the state for the 2012 election.
About 84% of citizens in the state are white. 9% of citizens are African American, and 6% are Hispanic. These demographics show that the minority population of the state is very small. Minority groups are an important demographic for Democratic candidates, especially for Obama in the 2008 election and this election.
In 2008, Obama won 90% of the African American vote and 77% of the Hispanic vote in the state. Many of these citizens had never voted in a presidential election before, meaning Obama gained an untapped source of Democratic strength. Furthermore, Obama won 61% of the urban vote, which provided him with a narrow majority over the rural areas that flocked to Republican John McCain.
Overall, Obama sources of strength in the state are minorities, urbanites, and the youth vote. Urbanites are probably the biggest percentage of these three groups. However, Romney has a major advantage with rural areas and middle-aged Hoosiers. Romney also may have a slight edge over Obama with senior citizens in the state. These voting blocs that back Romney constitute a clear voting majority in the state. If a majority of these Romney voters go the polls on Election Day, Obama will have a very slim chance of winning the state.
Indiana Trending Conservative?
Indiana has traditionally been a conservative state, and this election seems to reaffirm that statement. As discussed in previous posts, a majority of U.S. House Seats will remain in the hands of Republicans. Furthermore, most election forecasters predict that Republican Mike Pence will win the race for Governor, keeping that position firmly in the hands of Republicans.
However, one upset to this conservative trend could be the U.S. Senate race. Last month, a poll came out with Democrat Joe Donnelly leading Republican Richard Mourdock by 2 points. Now, a poll released on Monday by Rasmussen shows Mourdock ahead by 5 points with 47% of the vote, with 8% of voters still undecided.
The U.S. Senate race in Indiana is one of many that may determine which party controls the Senate next year. Voters in the state could easily choose Republicans for President and Governor, but choose a Democrat for Senator. Many voters now do not vote a straight-ticket like they did in the past, meaning a divided government between parties is very likely to continue.
Indiana is clearly leaning Romney, and he can be pretty confident that he will win the state’s 11 electoral votes on Election Day. Although a last minute surprise by either candidate may change the forecast of the election in the coming weeks, it would take a significant change in opinion to allow President Obama to carry the state.
It is impossible to be entirely sure about the way Indiana will vote in November. Since robo-calls are not allowed, polling organizations have had to create different ways of polling the state, meaning there are usually higher margins of error. However, the consensus of polls over the past several months has consistently showed Romney with a large lead over Obama. Indiana will most likely return to the Republican wing of the Electoral College this November.