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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What To Look For Today In Indiana And North Carolina

Five things to look for in Indiana
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Before Barack Obama experienced a rough couple of weeks, his campaign was optimistic about his chances in this state.

But with a black population of less than ten percent and swaths of blue collar towns and rural counties, Indiana is looking far more favorable to Hillary Clinton, who has blanketed the state with visits from her, former President Bill Clinton and their daughter Chelsea.

Can she achieve a replay of Ohio and Pennsylvania, when the rural counties turned in huge margins for her? Or will Obama, with significant endorsements in southern Indiana, be able to cut into her support? And will Obama succeed in driving up his totals in Indianapolis and the northwestern corner of the state?

Here is what Indiana political strategists and experts will be looking for Tuesday:

Check the polls. “The mantra is that 10-2-4 routine,” said Brian Howey, editor of Howey Politics Indiana, referring to 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. checks to gauge turnout.

Follow the turnout. Analysts are expecting far bigger turnout this year than in 2004, when about 22 percent of voters cast ballots in the presidential primary, said Russell Hanson, a political science professor at Indiana University-Bloomington.

A much bigger turnout is good news for Obama because it means “those who haven’t been politically engaged in the past are coming out,” Hanson said. “If that is not happening, then that is working in Clinton’s favor because the traditional [party] machinery is working.”

The new vote and the early vote. Analysts will be watching the preferences of the more than 200,000 new voters who were added to the registration rolls.

“How many are Obamacans versus Rush Limbaugh mischief makers?” Howey asked.
More than 160,000 voters cast their ballots early, with large numbers coming in from Obama strongholds in Lake (Gary), Marion (Indianapolis) and Monroe (Indiana University-Bloomington) counties.

The Obama campaign tried taking full advantage of this option at Purdue and Indiana University, where classes concluded last week, by shuttling students to the county election site. “The traffic was so heavy that the county clerk agreed they would bring the polling place to the center of campus for two days,” Hanson said.

Hoosier math. Obama needs to pile up large margins in Indianapolis in the middle of the state and in Gary’s Lake County in the northwest corner, which is part of the Chicago media market.

Both areas boast significant African American populations. Gary, a city of 100,000 residents, is 84 percent black. Indianapolis, population 780,000, is 25 percent black.

A good night for Obama would mean 10- to 20-point margins in both areas, analysts said.

Obama will also need 20-point margins in college towns such as Bloomington and West Lafayette, analysts said.

Clinton must rely on the Ohio River towns in southern Indiana along the Kentucky border. Obama drew 8,000 people to rally in Evansville, and picked up key endorsements in this area, such as Congressman Baron Hill and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, a revered figure. But Clinton is nevertheless favored to win the region by double digits. She spent the final hours of the campaign Monday in New Albany, a city of 37,000 with 7 percent black population, and Evansville, a city of 117,000 that is 11 percent black.

Clinton also hopes to pad her lead in east central Indiana. Economically-distressed cities with union influence, such as Anderson, Muncie and Richmond, present favorable terrain for Clinton, but they also have African American populations of between eight and 15 percent, Howey said.

Places to watch. Kokomo’s Howard County is the bellwether to watch, Howey said. It is urban and rural, with a mix of African Americans and blue collar workers, some employed in the Chrysler plants. According to Howey, it tends to back the winner in gubernatorial, congressional and state legislative races.

The South Bend area drew significant focus from both campaigns. It is home to the University of Notre Dame, which bodes well for Obama, but there are also many Catholics and a “strong tradition of blue collar Reagan Democratic voters” that would favor Clinton, said Hanson.

The wealthy Republican suburbs north of Indianapolis also received attention from the campaigns, suggesting that both candidates are looking for crossover votes, Howey said. A poll conducted for the Howey Politics Indiana found that up to 20 percent of Tuesday’s turnout could be non-Democrats.

A much bigger turnout is good news for Obama because it means “those who haven’t been politically engaged in the past are coming out,” Hanson said. “If that is not happening, then that is working in Clinton’s favor because the traditional [party] machinery is working.

Jonathan Martin contributed to this report.

... and in North Carolina
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If Barack Obama's late decision to hold his election night rally in Raleigh is any indication (his campaign didn't settle on a location until Monday afternoon), the Illinois senator is feeling confident about his chances in North Carolina.

It’s a good thing, for an upset win by Hillary Clinton in North Carolina could shake up the presidential campaign if paired with a Clinton victory in Indiana.

For insight into how North Carolina will be won, here’s a guide to where and what to watch Tuesday:

Check the polls. Officially, the polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. But insiders here check the polls at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., after the early morning and lunch hour rushes, to gauge turnout.

Keep an eye on Raleigh-Durham area turnout. Before more than 350,000 ballots were cast during the early voting period, analysts were forecasting a turnout of about 800,000 voters in the presidential primary.

That number should now top one million, said Morgan Jackson, a North Carolina political consultant.

“The key will be the Raleigh-Durham market,” Jackson said. It usually makes up between a quarter and a third of the overall turnout vote. “If that is creeping up to 40 percent that spells good news for Obama,” he said.

Big cities vs. small towns. North Carolina voters are concentrated around the I-40/I-85 corridor through the central region of the state, where Obama will look to drive his margins above 55 percent in the metropolitan areas of Charlotte, Winston-Salem (part of the Triad) and Raleigh-Durham (part of the Research Triangle).

North Carolina has 100 counties, and “usually the top 14 counties in the metropolitan areas cast more votes” than the rest combined, said Ferrel Guillory, a former political reporter who lectures at the University of North Carolina. “So Hillary is counting on those other counties to maximize her vote.

She needs an extra margin out of those counties.”

Former President Bill Clinton has been busy working the less populated areas to the west of Charlotte and to the east of Raleigh. He made 14 stops on Sunday and Monday alone in towns that have never seen a former president.

All in all, the former president has made more than 40 campaign stops in small town North Carolina, where analysts say Hillary needs to pull in more than 60 percent of the vote.

Can she do it? Bill Clinton bragged to at least one North Carolina crowd that he boosted his wife in Pennsylvania, visiting 20 rural counties where she won at least 60 percent of the vote.

Hillary Clinton will also need to be competitive in the suburbs and exurbs of the major metropolitan areas because a pure rural strategy will not be enough, analysts said.

Follow the African-American vote. The higher the black turnout, the higher the Obama margin of victory.

African Americans have made up 40 percent of the early voting turnout and are expected to comprise anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of the vote today.

Most polls show Clinton picking up about 10 percent of the African American vote. If she can claw her way into the range of about 20 percent—which would be on the high side for her in a Southern state—she would get some breathing room.

Places to watch. Check out a medium-sized city such as Fayetteville where there is a mix of African Americans and rural white conservative Democrats. Clinton has made overtures to the military voters around Fort Bragg, but Obama could draw strength from historically black Fayetteville State University, said Doug Heye, a Republican political strategist and North Carolina native.

Durham, which is 44 percent African American, could provide a gauge on turnout among one of Obama’s most loyal constituencies. Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, all at least one-third black, are also worth watching. Obama needs strong turnout in towns with black colleges and universities, such as Elizabeth City in the northeastern corner of the state, Heye said.

The counties around Raleigh and Durham could provide clues as to whether Obama can rebound with suburban white voters after turning in a lackluster performance in Philadelphia’s upper-income suburbs.
Asheville could be an island of Obama strength in rural western Carolina.

Avi Zenilman and Jonathan Martin contributed to this report.

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