From the outside you’d never know the building at 445 N. Pennsylvania St. houses the Indiana campaign headquarters for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Passersby see no banners or big posters in red, white and blue with the candidate’s picture on them. But you do get a sense of something going on since half the cars outside have Hillary bumper stickers or out-of-state license plates.
“This will be a very competitive state here in Indiana for us,” said campaign spokesman Jonathan Swain. “But we expect to do well.”
Swain would not estimate the number of volunteers the campaign hopes to mobilize but said a grass-roots effort will reach every area of the state.
“So far, we have seen a good response [from volunteers] and we have a lot of anxious people working for Hoosiers for Hillary,” he said.
Swain also hoped to play down expectations and wouldn’t discuss how the candidate fared in Indiana polls of likely voters, saying only that “we know we have a challenge.”
One of the large challenges is that Obama is from neighboring Illinois, and in particular, is from Chicago. But Clinton does have major political strength in the state. Much of the Democratic Party establishment is behind her.
U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, a super delegate at this summer’s Democratic National Convention in Denver, is a national co-chair of Clinton’s campaign and has traveled across the state and the nation on her behalf, and former Indiana first lady Judy O’Bannon has also made Clinton campaign appearances. Additionally, former Gov. Joe Kernan and Indiana House Speaker B. Patrick “Pat” Bauer are supporters, as is state party Chair Dan Parker.
“Sen. Clinton will speak to the issues that are important to Hoosiers, including the economy and jobs” and will aggressively campaign in Indiana, said Parker, also a super delegate.
As Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wowed voters during a campaign stop in Plainfield two weeks ago, his staff was still hard at work putting together the local Obama for America office in Indianapolis.
The campaign office, which held its official opening last weekend, is located in a large, late 19th century red brick school building on the extreme eastern side of downtown, easily missed at 407 Fulton St. unless you are truly looking for it. Throughout the day and evening, it is not unusual to see young, idealistic staffers and volunteers in blue jeans entering and exiting the former School 9.
“We will put together a big organization here between now and May 6. We plan to expand the map,” said Obama spokesman Nick Kimball. “We expect to have thousands [of volunteers] across the state.”
The Indiana Obama campaign has some organizational strength. The state director is Mitch Stewart, who orchestrated Obama’s win in the Iowa caucuses. But he also worked in Texas where Clinton won.
“The team we’ve put in place understands that strong organizations are built from the ground up. We look forward to building grass-roots support in Indiana the old-fashioned way — person by person and community by community,” said Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
“We will have a presence throughout the state,” Plouffe said in a telephone interview.
“We have experienced a lot of job loss in Indiana. We have seen a net loss of at least 35,000 jobs,” said former U.S. House member Tim Roemer, another Obama supporter. “People are worried about where the economy is going.”
While in Congress representing a district in northwest Indiana, Roemer said he was courted by the Clinton Administration to support the North America Free Trade Agreement. “But I voted against NAFTA,” he said.
“We have a message of change and hope that resonates throughout Indiana,” Roemer said. “I am very excited about Sen. Obama campaigning in Indiana.”
Roemer said he has an idea to counteract the star power of Chelsea Clinton campaigning for her mother. “I would like to get Oprah. She used to have a house in my district,” said Roemer, noting that media mogul Oprah Winfrey is a longtime Obama supporter.
“The Indiana primary is of critical important to us and we are going to have a heavy presence in the state,” Plouffe said.
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