Around the U.S. in 50 Days: Indiana, part 2

In Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly will be the nominee for Senate and not face a competitive primary which allows him to gear up for the general election while Lugar and Mourdock battle it out for the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, Lugar is spending money fighting off a fellow Republican while Donnelly is building up his war chest, And to hear many conservatives on this site and others talk, should Lugar prevail, they won’t financially support his candidacy. By November 2012, the money may be even on both sides.

Additionally, Donnelly has proven in the past that he is an able fund raiser. For his 2nd District reelection bid in 2010, he raised $1.7 million. In this election cycle, he has raised $1.8 million thus far. Should Lugar prevail in the primary, then Donnelly is set to ironically run to the right of Lugar. That may seem like a tough sell considering his support for some programs like the Obama porkulis. Still, for a Democrat, he does receive some higher than average (for a Democrat) marks from conservative leaning organizations. National pro-life groups give him an 83 rating while the American Conservative Union gives him a lifetime score of 30- rather high for a Democrat. And the Christian Coalition gives him a score of 70. That is, Donnelly can portray himself as that pragmatic type of legislator that Hoosiers seem to prefer. Obviously, if Mourdock prevails, then Donnelly cannot use that “run to the right” strategy.

Instead, he will steal a move from the 2010 GOP play book and keep the election local. Of course, he will still have to explain some of his less than conservative votes in Congress. But by the same token, he can portray Mourdock as a political novice and puppet of the national Tea Party movement so outside the mainstream of Indiana’s pragmatic voters that they would have to reject him. It is basically the same strategy used with some success against Sharron Angle in Nevada in 2010. And there is always the important money issue to consider. Despite essentially being on the campaign trail since 2010, the rate of fund raising by Mourdock does not approximate that of Donnelly. Since Mourdock will likely get an infusion of funds from outside national groups, that will be fodder for Donnelly in his portrayal of Mourdock as a puppet. There remains the question of whether Lugar’s donors would financially support a Mourdock candidacy.

In the House races, Indiana maintains their nine seats. Two of them are open races- Joe Donnelly’s seat in the 2nd District and Mike Pence’s seat in the 6th.

Pete Viscloskey’s district, a seat he has held since 1985, is based in the distant suburbs of Chicago and redistricting bolstered its Democratic lean. He will win reelection. Changes in the Third District added areas south of Fort Wayne which increases the GOP chances, but may make Republican Marlin Stutzman vulnerable to a primary challenge, although no one has stepped forward. Todd Rokita, a Republican, was drawn “about 500 yards” outside his home 4th District, but should also win.

Dan Burton in the 5th will continue to represent Hamilton County and the north side of Indianapolis, but picks up some Democratic areas in northern Marion and Madison. He will face a primary challenge while the Democrats will run state representative Scott Reske with Burton ultimately prevailing. Andre Carson in the 7th is a Democrat and lost the Democratic areas of northern Marion County and picked up the Republican leaning southern part of the county. Still, he should win his seat.

The 8th, represented by Republican freshman Larry Buschon, has shown a lag in fund raising for his reelection efforts. Some counties favorable to Republicans were removed from the district and replaced with several counties that show no preference one way or the other. Sensing the possibility of a seat gain here, Democrats have united behind former state representative Dave Crooks. However, 2010 candidate Trent Van Haaften has not ruled out a run. Should he enter as an independent, it would boost Buschon’s chances. This race actually bears some watching, but should be retained by the GOP.

Meanwhile in the 9th, GOP incumbent Todd Young had his district made more Republican by extending it north to capture Johnson and Morgan counties and the suburbs of Lexington, Kentucky. He should win reelection.

That leaves the open 6th and 2nd Districts. Based in the Muncie area and extending to the Ohio River, the district favors Republicans. At this point, the most likely match up would be Luke Messer, a former state representative and ex-Director of the Indiana Republican Party, on the GOP side and James Crone, a sociology professor for the Democrats with the District staying in Republican hands.

In the 2nd District, GOP areas of Elkhart, Miamai, Wabash and much of Kosciukso counties were drawn in while Democratic LaPorte County and the city of Kokomo were removed. Before declaring his Senatorial candidacy, Donnelly stated his confidence that even with these changes, the District would remain Democratic. If so, it would likely be in the form of Army veteran Brendan Mullen or attorney Andrew Straw with Mullen having the inside track. For Republicans, there is Greg Andrews, Mitch Feikes and Jackie Walorsky, who lost to Donnelly in 2010. Given name recognition, cash on hand, and changes due to redistricting, and Obama at the top of the ticket, it seems likely Walorsky will win this district in a close race against Mullen.

To summarize, Republicans will pick up a House seat in Indiana (the 2nd District) while Mike Pence will be the next Republican Governor of Indiana. Should Lugar run against Donnelly, Lugar will win, but by a closer margin than in the past. Should Mourdock prevail in the primary, then I believe Donnelly will win a close election. If I had to choose a primary winner, at this point I would handicap this in favor of Lugar. Thus, the seat will remain in GOP hands.

Running totals thus far:
Obama with 145 electoral votes to 176 for GOP nominee;
Net gain of 2 Governors;
Net gain of 4 Senate seats, and;
Net loss of 7 House seats.

Next: Ohio