When I moved to Indiana this summer, I knew I was moving to a deep Red State, a state where Bush stomped Kerry by 20 points in the 2004 presidential election, winning all but 4 counties. In fact, since 1940, when the Republicans nominated the Hoosier Wendle Wilkie for president, Indiana had only voted for a Democrat presidential candidate once, in 1964, until last week.
I admit that when I read the polls showing that Indiana was considered a “battleground state,” I shrugged it off, remembering how some pollsters in the closing days of the 2004 presidential election believed that the Bush-Cheney ticket might win Hawaii. Cheney even made a trip to the Aloha state. I also figured that if McCain failed to win a state like Indiana, he would lose in a landslide in any case.
But Obama won Indiana. And while it was a decisive victory, it wasn’t a complete blowout either. So why did my new home state vote Democrat?
Let’s first realize that the Democrats did not sweep the races in Indiana. Governor Mitch Daniels won a solid reelection victory. Looking at the votes broken down by county, you can see why McCain narrowly lost the state. While Daniels won Marion county, the most populated county in the state and nearly identical in boundary to the city of Indianapolis, he also won huge margins in the suburban counties outside Indianapolis, in Hamilton, Hancock and Shelby counties.
McCain? He got slaughtered in Marion county. And his margins in the suburban counties were lackluster. So Obama won the Indianapolis metro area.
Now let’s compare the two Republican candidates. Mitch Daniels is a traditional conservative Republican. John McCain is a maverick.
The next time a Republican candidate for President tells you that they know how to “reach across the aisle” and “work with Democrats” to “get things done” and they use this as a qualification for being the GOP nominee, tell him (or her) to look at the results of our election in Indiana last week. Being a traditional conservative is a winning strategy here. Being a wishy-washy maverick is a way to get beat.