Monday, May 2, 2016

Hoosier Buddy? Hoosier Pal? Hoosier Politics

In a matter of hours, voters will be going to the polls in Indiana to vote in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries.

Even for the state's old–timers, this is bound to be a first — primaries in either party that have real bearing on the outcomes of the nomination battles. Actually, in the annals of presidential politics (primary or general elections), this is indeed a rare occasion for the folks in Indiana. It has been an opportunity for them to see and hear four people who want to be the next president — and, in all likelihood, one will be. Ordinarily, nominations are all but wrapped up by the time Indiana's primaries are held so they attract little attention — from either the candidates or the media.

Indiana almost always votes Republican in the general election and usually by a wide margin so there is little reason for either nominee to campaign there this fall. Yes, I know Barack Obama carried the state by almost 30,000 votes (out of more than 2.7 million cast) in 2008, but the state reverted to form in 2012 and went for Mitt Romney by more than a quarter of a million votes.

That 2008 election was only the second time since the end of World War II that Indiana voted for a Democrat. The other time was in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson carried the state against Barry Goldwater. It didn't vote for any of the other Democrats who have been elected president since the end of the war — not Harry Truman or Jack Kennedy or Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton.

Clearly, the assumption has to be that the Republican nominee — whoever that turns out to be — will win Indiana. And the winner of the Democratic nomination, if he or she is smart, will not devote much in the way of time or resources to campaigning in Indiana this fall — unless polls consistently show that the state is up for grabs.

Which is always possible. This year has already been one unlike any other in American political history. And it would not shock me if there are many surprises in store for us on Election Night this November.

That is six months from now. Many things can happen in six months. It is truly an eternity in politics.

That is exactly why it is wise not to place too much faith in polls, either. I know I cite them in this blog, but that is as a general barometer, and I make no pretense that they are endowed with some strange, mystical power to see the future. They tend to be useful for showing how close or lopsided a race looks at a moment in time, but the numbers are imprecise. It is a cliche, but it is still true: The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day.

Decisions are made by those who show up. And who knows what will be on the minds of the voters when they go to the polls in November?

Will there be a terrorist attack somewhere in October — another Brussels or Paris, perhaps? Maybe there will be one at the Summer Olympics in South America. Or maybe somewhere that is not obvious today.

What will happen with the economy this summer? Will joblessness go up? Will GDP go down? What will the stock market do?

Will the FBI finally render its decision on Hillary Clinton's private email server?

Or will voters be thinking about public restrooms?

Whatever the answers are to those questions — and to those questions no one has thought to ask but almost certainly will between now and November — the one thing that seems certain, on the eve of what I honestly believe will be the turning point in both nomination battles, is that we are witnessing a turning point in American politics.

Because of what we are seeing in this election, in the years to come, nothing will be quite the same.

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