GovernorMitch Daniels (R)
SenatorsRichard Lugar (R)
Evan Bayh (D)
- 5 D, 4 R
- 1 through 9
Every year on Memorial Day, the nation’s eyes turn to Indianapolis, the center of a state with the nation’s most distinctive nickname—the Hoosier State—for a sports spectacle celebrating the taste for powerful machines that make the Midwest the nation’s manufacturing center—the Indianapolis 500. This combination of sports and manufacturing is symbolic of Indiana’s historic strengths and successes. Its industrial base and sports heritage sometimes seem as antique as the bricks that originally paved the Indianapolis Speedway, where all but one yard at the start-finish line has long since been asphalted. The Speedway is literally at the center of American manufacturing: Almost half of the country’s manufacturing jobs are east of Indiana and the other half are west, almost half are north and half are south. Indiana has the nation’s highest percentage of workers in manufacturing—20% in 2005—and the highest percentage of gross product attributable to manufacturing. It is the No. 2 steel producer in the country, with giant, heavily automated steel mills on the south shore of Lake Michigan and mini-mills scattered across the state. Indiana leads the nation in making elevators, refrigerators, engines, engine-electrical equipment, recreational vehicles, mobile homes, and truck and bus bodies. It gave the world canned pork and beans, tomato juice, the Coca-Cola bottle, and Alka-Seltzer. It has big General Motors and Chrysler plants and newer Toyota, Subaru, and Honda plants.
The downside of a manufacturing economy, apparent in the second half of 2008, is that it is prone to sharp contraction in a recession. Indiana managed to recover from the 2000-01 recession and was generating new jobs while neighboring states were losing them in 2006 and 2007. Growth was strong in metro Indianapolis, which with about one-quarter of the state’s population accounted for 64% of its population growth from 2000 to 2007. Cummins and American Commercial Lines opened new factories in 2007, and Honda’s plant in Greensburg opened in 2008. But manufacturing is increasingly capital-intensive. Indiana continues to churn out huge tonnages of steel to meet Chinese demands, but with only 19,000 workers. The recession of 2008 hit particularly hard in a state that ranks third nationally in auto-related manufacturing. Unemployment skyrocketed in November and December 2008, when the Detroit Three auto companies were threatened with bankruptcy. Indiana was projected to lose 147,000 jobs if the carmakers slid into Chapter 11. The jobless rate was especially high at year’s end in Elkhart, which bills itself as the RV capital of the world. The bright spot for Indiana was that it has slowly been turning to other industries, especially life sciences. Biopharmaceutical development was under way at Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly; prosthetics, orthopedics, and biofuels were also growing—to the point that Indiana has been rated the nation’s No. 3 or No. 4 life-sciences state in recent surveys.
Culturally, Indiana is like an earlier America. It retains some of the old norms that in the 1920s and 1930s attracted sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd, in their search for the typical American place, to “Middletown” (actually Muncie). Ethnically, Indiana seems like an earlier America too. Except for the steel area around Gary—really an extension of the Chicago metropolitan area—Indiana has relatively few descendants from the 1840-1924 wave of immigration and only a small flow of recent Hispanic or Asian immigrants. But it does have religious diversity, with 109 denominations, according to the Glenmary Center. Only six states have more. The major metropolitan area, Indianapolis, now has 1.6 million people but doesn’t have the distinct singles and gay neighborhoods of larger cities. What it does have is one of the nation’s largest foundations, the Lilly Endowment, which gives much of its money locally, and a willingness to create and innovate. In the 1980s, the Lilly Endowment urged Indianapolis to make itself a sports center. The city attracted the Colts professional football team to the Hoosier Dome, now the RCA Dome. In the late 1990s, Indianapolis’s downtown filled with construction projects: the professional basketball Pacers’ Conseco Fieldhouse, the new National Collegiate Athletic Association headquarters, a conservatory, and the Indiana State Museum. To cap it off, Indianapolis will host the 2012 Super Bowl.
The partisan patterns in Indiana state politics sometimes seem typical of an older America, too, with preferences anchored in the Civil War era and the union-organizing days of the 1930s. It was a crucial target state from the Civil War to the New Deal in the struggles between Republicans and Democrats. Party identification was handed down like religious affiliation—the Lynd research team noted that Presbyterians had little to do with Methodists, but that was nothing next to divisions between Republicans and Democrats. The people of Indiana, by and large, are descendants of its original settlers, Yankees from Ohio and New England, and ‘‘Butternuts,’’ as they were called in the Civil War years, from Kentucky and the South. Most Yankees became Republicans and most Butternuts became Democrats, and that split has persisted over generations and been a factor in elections for state office from New Deal times until today. Those enduring traditions enabled Democrats to hold the governorship from 1988 to 2004 and to be competitive in state legislative elections. Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh has tended to run ahead in Butternut Indiana, whereas Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels fares well in Yankee Indiana. Two of the three U.S. House seats that Democrats captured in 2006 were in the Butternut south end of the state; the other was centered on industrial South Bend in the north.
At the presidential level, Indiana’s cultural conservatism and lack of a dovish tradition kept it in the Republican column for two generations. In 1964, it voted 56%-43% for Democrat Lyndon Johnson. But in the next 10 elections it was so resolutely Republican that it was never a target state for the Democrats, although the results were fairly close in 1976 and 1996. A main reason was that Indianapolis and the smaller factory towns were not as heavily Democratic as Detroit or Cleveland; indeed, they were usually Republican. In the 1920s the Lynds, liberal academics influenced by Marx’s idea that political beliefs were determined by economic interests, were puzzled why the factory workers in “Middletown” didn’t vote against the bosses. One reason may be that cultural identity and personal values tend to be permanent and so have usually been the critical determinants of political allegiance, especially in the United States, where economic status can often be changeable. Another factor may be that the economic interests of Indiana’s highly skilled workers and its small and large factory owners may not be as adversarial as academics suppose.
In 2008, for the first time in nearly 45 years, Indiana voted Democratic for president. A state that went 60%-39% for George W. Bush in 2004 voted 50%-49% for Barack Obama four years later. This was the biggest swing in any of the 50 states, and is the product of many factors. The Obama campaign targeted Indiana from the beginning, vastly outspent the opposition, registered new young voters, and made inroads in the ailing industrial towns that had resisted Democratic nominees for many years. Metro Indianapolis, like metro Columbus, Ohio—which has a similar economic base and Republican past—moved sharply to the Democrats, particularly among affluent and better-educated voters. Obama did not run particularly well in the Butternut counties, but made up for it farther north in auto-dependent towns such as Fort Wayne, Anderson, and Muncie. Indiana began voting much more like Ohio and southern Michigan and less like the Great Plains states.
However, this did not hold true all the way down the ballot. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who was George W. Bush’s first-term budget director, was re-elected by a solid 58%-40% even as Obama was carrying the state, a considerably bigger victory than Daniels’s initial 53%-45% win in 2004. The victory was all the more remarkable because two of the governor’s policies were hugely controversial: the leasing for 75 years of the North Indiana Toll Road to an Australian-Spanish consortium and the adoption of daylight saving time. Indiana straddles the Eastern and Central time zones, with most counties in the Eastern time zone choosing not to observe daylight saving. Few issues impinge so drastically on personal lives, and several counties ended up outside their preferred time zone under Daniels’s policy. Democrats put up an outcry, and in 2006 the party gained three seats in the state House, enough for a 51-49 majority, while the state Senate remained solidly Republican. For a time, Daniels posted low job-approval ratings and seemed vulnerable. But he emphasized his Indiana Economic Development Corp. which committed $700 million in incentives to bring a promised 75,000 jobs to the state, and a property-tax law that increased the sales tax by 1% but decreased the burden on local government.
2008 Presidential Vote
2008 Democratic Presidential Primary
2008 Republican Presidential Primary
Indiana had seen little presidential campaigning since 1968, when Democrats Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy battled in the May primary against Lyndon Johnson’s stand-in, Gov. Roger Branigan. The closest the Democrats came to winning was President Clinton’s loss by 5% to GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole in 1996, a year in which Clinton had more than enough electoral votes and did not seriously contest Indiana. The 2008 election was different.
Everyone had assumed that both parties’ nominees would already be settled by the time of Indiana’s May 6 primary. But Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton was still battling Barack Obama and, after solid victories in Ohio and Pennsylvania, she hoped that a win in Indiana would balance an expected loss in North Carolina on the same day. Clinton had the active support of Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, who had chosen not to run for president himself after some serious consideration in late 2006. And Indiana seemed demographically similar to Ohio and Pennsylvania. But not quite. Indiana’s population is a bit younger. Its African-American percentage is lower than Ohio’s, and metro Indianapolis does not have the racially polarized urban politics that Cleveland and Cincinnati do (although Gary and Lake County do). Moreover, Indiana does not have party registration, as Pennsylvania does. Independents and Republicans could vote in the Democratic primary. And they did. Only 412,684 people voted in the Republican primary, less than in 2004, when there was only one candidate on the ballot, while nearly 1.3 million voted in the Democratic primary, four times as many as the 317,211 that voted in the 2004 Democratic contest. Obama won by huge margins among black and young voters. Clinton carried women, the elderly, and blue-collar voters by much smaller margins. Indianapolis and its suburbs voted heavily for Obama, who also carried the counties that included Gary, South Bend, Elkhart, and Fort Wayne, and the university towns of Lafayette and Bloomington. While Clinton emerged the winner, she was denied the satisfaction of announcing her victory on prime-time television because Lake County authorities held back their results, and network analysts, knowing there were many black voters there, refrained from calling her the winner. That was also the night that the late Tim Russert of NBC News declared, accurately, that Obama would ultimately be the Democratic nominee.
The Obama campaign’s organizational work in the primary paid off in the general election. In a state that had seen no intensive presidential campaigning since the 1940s, the campaign opened 44 offices, hired 210 paid staff, attracted 80,000 volunteers, and had 50,000 people going door to door and making phone calls in the final week. The Obama team outspent Republican John McCain’s campaign 5-to-1 in the state. Excitement was intense. Obama attracted a crowd of 30,000 in Indianapolis while McCain’s vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, could muster a crowd of only 25,000 in suburban Noblesville in October. Obama carried only 15 of Indiana’s 92 counties but racked up big enough margins to win 50% to McCain’s 49% statewide.
The exit poll showed that 63% of young voters went for Obama, 61% of the elderly for McCain; 62% of white Protestants and 52% of white Catholics voted for McCain; 73% of whites with no religion and 90% of African-Americans voted for Obama. One precinct in Indianapolis gave 333 votes to Obama and none to McCain. Turnout was up 11% statewide and by about 25% in affluent Indianapolis suburbs (Hamilton, Hancock, and Hendricks counties) and in university towns (Tippecanoe and Monroe counties). Marion County, where Indianapolis is located and which had voted 51%-49% for John Kerry, voted 64%-35% for Obama. The Democrat did not run particularly well in the Butternut counties, but he made major gains in the industrial landscape between Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and South Bend.
|111th Congress: 5 D, 4 R|
Indiana lost one congressional district in the 2000 census, and that required significant changes in district lines that had stayed pretty much the same for 20 years. In charge were Democrats, who then had the governorship and a majority in the state House, though Republicans had a majority in the state Senate. Indiana law provides that if the House and Senate cannot agree, the decision goes to a five-member commission, with the tie-breaking member appointed by the governor. In May 2001, the commission adopted a plan largely identical to that passed by the state House. Democrats hoped to retain the four seats they held and to improve their chances in at least one more. But as often happens with redistricting, the initial results were disappointing. In the marginal 2nd District, where Democrat Tim Roemer retired in 2002, Republican Chris Chocola picked up the seat. In 2004, Republican Mike Sodrel beat incumbent Democrat Baron Hill in the 9th District.
But the plan paid off for Democrats in 2006. The 2nd and 9th districts went 54% and 50% for Democrats Joe Donnelly and Baron Hill, respectively, with Hill reclaiming his former seat. Democrat Brad Ellsworth walloped six-term incumbent John Hostettler 61%-39% in the 8th District, which in the 1970s and 1980s was one of the nation’s most frequently contested seats.
Indiana is not expected to lose a seat in the 2010 census. The re-election of GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels appears to give Republicans the upper hand in redistricting. The state Senate is solidly Republican and the state House is only narrowly Democratic. Even if Democrats hold on to the House in 2010, the House can probably be managed with finesse, as the Republican state Senate was in 2001, when Democrats were in charge of redistricting.