Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Limited Ground Game in Indiana

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In 2008, President Obama made history in Indiana by being the first Democrat to capture the electoral votes of the state in a presidential election since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Obama barely won out over Senator John McCain, with only 30,000 votes separating the two candidates. Coming into 2012, many Democrats hoped to repeat this shift of power in the state.

However, the conditions for a Democratic victory have been severely limited this election cycle. President Obama won Indiana in 2008 because he had superior organization in the state compared to McCain. The primaries against Hillary Clinton forced Obama to open up many field offices in the state, leaving a strong organization in place for the general election. John McCain had never had to campaign in the state in the primaries, meaning he was significantly behind in the ground game for the general election.

Without a primary challenge for President Obama, he has not established significant organization in Indiana. Although offices remained standing in some battleground states, the ones in Indiana closed down after the election. Voters have now reverted back to their conservative roots in the state, giving the President an even lower chance of carrying the state.

What impact has this had on the presidential race in Indiana? Since the state has been in the “Romney column” for so many months, neither candidate has expended resources in the state. This is evidenced by fewer yard signs in the state and less enthusiasm among voters. Overall, it has meant a significant lack of local organizations for either candidate. Both Obama and Romney have come to rely on their respective campaign offices and state party organizations to run the ground game in the state.

President Barack Obama

Since the President is not likely to win the popular vote in Indiana, his campaign has not spent much time or resources in the state. His campaign has several offices throughout the state to coordinate volunteer activities, but much of his time has been devoted to key battleground states across the nation.

In fact, the local offices of the Obama campaign are encouraging Indiana Democrats to help the campaign make calls. When signing up to volunteer for the campaign, you are immediately given the opportunity to make phone calls to battleground states. In 2008, volunteers for Obama in the state were encouraged to make calls within the state and go door-to-door. This has been a significant change from 2008, leading to less enthusiasm among voters in Indiana.

The Indiana Democratic Party has also been assisting with the Obama campaign in the state. The organization helps coordinate fundraising with the Obama campaign by working at the county level. However, the state party has been more focused on close state races this year. The race for the Indiana U.S. Senate Seat has been a major focus of the Indiana Democratic Party. Since Democrat Joe Donnelly has a very good chance of winning this Tuesday, Democrats in the state have decided to focus on this race rather than the presidential race.

Governor Mitt Romney

Governor Romney has been assured a win in Indiana for the past several months. Consistently polling over 50% in the state, he has little need to campaign in the state. He has set up several offices in the state to coordinate volunteer efforts, but like Obama, has no major local organizations other than that.

The Romney campaign has given significant support to Republican Richard Mourdock, who is running for the U.S. Senate Seat in the state. This is part of Romney’s promise to regain control of the U.S. Senate this election cycle. Rather than campaign for himself in the state, he has thrown his support behind Mourdock, hoping that his popularity in the state will help propel Mourdock to victory on Tuesday.

The Indiana Republican Party has also been assisting with Mitt Romney’s ground game in the state. The organization has helped organize several fundraising events for the candidate since 2011. However, just like the Democratic Party in the state, they have been focusing more of their efforts on the U.S. Senate Race.

The End Result

Mitt Romney will win Indiana on Tuesday, but it will not be from superior organization or investment in the state. Hoosiers have supported him for the past several months, having lost faith in President Obama. Although they enthusiastically supported him four years ago, they are ready for another change in leadership in the White House.

This is a complete change from 2008. During that election, the ground game was intense in the state, with both candidates making significant efforts to win over voters. Local organizations were very active in giving support for the candidates. Volunteers were plentiful and field offices were seen everywhere, especially for the Obama campaign.

Now, the state has very little interest in the presidential campaign. Voters are focused primary on the U.S. Senate race that has been a toss-up for the past several months. The ground game for this race has been excellent, giving voters a sense of political involvement and importance in a state that has barely seen either presidential candidate.


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