The race for the Democratic nomination is coming to a close. As the likely nominee, Barack Obama leads in every possible metric: popular vote, delegate count, number of states won, number of primaries won, and number of caucuses won. World War I was dubbed “The War to End All Wars”. Indiana is shaping up to be the “Primary to End All Primaries”… at least for the 2008 election season.
The reason I say that is because without the states of Indiana and North Carolina, it is not possible for Hillary Clinton to catch up in either the delegate count (for which she trails him by roughly 150 elected delegates) or the popular vote (which he leads by 500,000). If the polls are any indication, Hillary is looking to lose North Carolina by upwards of 150,000, which will erase the gains she made from winning Pennsylvania.
As such, Indiana is seen as a “tie-breaker”. No matter the outcome of the Indiana primary, Obama will lead in the popular vote and delegate count. Indiana and North Carolina (the 15th largest and 10th largest states, respectively) are the last major states to vote. After these two primaries on May 6, there are only small states with comparatively low populations: Kentucky (26th), Oregon (27th), West Virginia (37th), Montana (44th) and South Dakota (46th). Obama is favored in the second largest of these, Oregon, and the smallest two, Montana and South Dakota. Hillary will only gain a negligible amount of popular votes and delegates in these states.
Hillary’s last best hopes were in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. Winning Indiana is not sufficient enough to do much, considering Obama’s win in North Carolina will come from a slightly larger state and with a much higher percentage of the vote. However, the polls in Indiana have Obama up anyway. Four recent polls had Obama up between 1 and 5 percent. He even was beating John McCain, according to an Indianapolis Star poll, in a state that hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1964!
There are several reasons why Obama should be favored to win Indiana. First, Obama has never lost a state that borders Illinois. He won Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri by varying amounts of 1% to 17%. The second advantage that he has in Indiana is the number of black voters and where they are concentrated. While the percentage is smaller than Ohio and Pennsylvania, they will remain a key component of any victory. The third Obama advantage comes from the most impressive part of his campaign: his ability to motivate young voters.
1. Chicago spill-over: The biggest advantage Obama has in Indiana is the spill-over affect of his homestate and border state, Illinois. Northwest Indiana is an extension of Chicago, included by the U.S. Census as part of the metropolitan area reaching from Wisconsin to Michigan City, Indiana in LaPorte County (three counties to the east of the Illinois border).
Obama should carry the three Chicago suburban counties of Lake (Gary, Hammond), Porter (Portage) and LaPorte (Michigan City, LaPorte) with heavy turnout from African Americans, young and liberal voters. The demographics in this part of the state favor him heavily, and should easily counter more rural (and less populated) areas that will favor Hillary. The Chicago media market has influence in this part of the state.
The fourth county that will undoubtedly be affected by Chicago influence is St. Joseph County. This includes South Bend, Mishawaka and Notre Dame. While St. Joseph County is not technically part of the Chicago metropolitan area (it is outside of it by about 30 miles), St. Joseph County is safely inside Chicago’s sphere of economic, media and political influence. Combined, these four “Chicago spill-over” counties of Indiana make up a full 1/6 of the state’s population at an approximately 1,006,000. St. Joseph County will also be included in two other Obama advantage regions detailed below.
2. The black vote: Since blacks are so heavily Democrat, they will make up a larger percent of the primary electorate than their overall percent of the state’s population. In other words, even though blacks make up roughly 12% of St. Joseph County, they will probably make up about 20% of the vote in the Democratic primary. Lake County, which includes Gary and Hammond, has a surprisingly low black population considering the stereotypes (although still significant). 25% of Lake County’s nearly 500,000 residents are African American. Marion County will be the single largest county where Obama will get his votes. 24% of its nearly 900,000 residents are African American.
3. College towns: Despite widespread belief that Indiana is a farm state, most of its 6.3 million residents live in cities and towns. It also has an above-average number of high school and college graduates in the United States. Many of these towns are lifted up by large numbers of college students from in and out of state, as well as international students. Again, this is an Obama advantage. Obama tends to do better in states where voters are more educated.
Obama will win the college towns of Bloomington (IU – 40,000 students), West Lafayette (Purdue – 40,000 students), Muncie (Ball State – 20,000 students), Indianapolis (Butler – 5,000 students; IUPUI – 30,000 students), and South Bend (Notre Dame – 12,000 students; IUSB – 7,500 students). Indiana also has an extensive community college system known as Ivy Tech which accounts for 110,000 students across 23 campuses.