Will Indiana's May primary matter?


More than half of the states in America have now held primary elections or caucuses for both parties in this year's presidential primary race. In previous years Super Tuesday — which this year was March 1 — has been a big indicator of who will rise to the top of the ballot and be their party's candidate for the office of the president of the United States. But in 2008 that trend was broken. Although Hillary Clinton received the most individual votes on Super Tuesday, Barack Obama went on to be the Democratic nominee and eventually the president. More importantly, the primary election in Indiana became a battleground bringing the candidates to the state more than once.

With the current 4-man field for the GOP and the potential for another turnaround for the Democrats, we can't help but ask the question: Will Indiana's primary election matter this year and are Hoosiers ready for their votes to count?

POLL: Will Indiana's May primary matter?

Hoosier Republicans

For the Indiana Republican Party, the question is when — not if — will the presidential primary candidates begin to stump in Indiana, all in pursuit of the state's 57 delegates. Indiana Republican Party Chairman Jeff Cardwell's attitude is "bring it on!"

"For me, it's economic development 101," says Cardwell. "The candidates will bring people and revenue wherever they go."

With less than half of the states done with their respective caucuses or primaries and their available delegates divided up among the candidates, there is still a lot of wiggle room for any one of them to rise to the top. Typically Indiana's primary is so late in the year, the election for the presidential nominee was a simple formality. But as the Hoosier Democrats experienced in 2008, having your national votes really matter makes for an exciting time.

The Indiana GOP doesn't endorse any one candidate in a primary. When the candidates come to the Hoosier state, Cardwell says each one will be treated with the same respect and enthusiasm. And he believes the competition is a good thing.

"I guess maybe it's my retail background, but I see the competition as a positive thing... a little retail politics," said Cardwell. "I believe it makes for a better candidate and ultimately a better leader. It's part of the process and I believe in the process."

Cardwell refers to the democratic process — the method by which we in America select our government leaders. It is not always seen on the local or state level with candidates often running unopposed. But it always happens every four years — especially when the White House is a wide-open seat.

According to Cardwell, the democratic process is not always pleasant or pretty. While it feels as though this year's rhetoric among the presidential candidates is more harsh than in years past — particularly on the Republican side — Cardwell believes part of that feeling can be attributed to the "right here, right now" aspect that social media and the 24-hour news cycle bring to the table.

"I tell interns and some of the younger people here in the office all of the time that social media brings a whole other perspective that wasn't there even eight years ago," says Cardwell. "When I was younger you got the news of the day for 30 minutes each night on three channels then got to relax and step away from it the other 23 and a half hours. It's not like that now — it's there all the time."

Add to it the camera phone and anyone's ability to capture what happens when it happens and every incident goes viral. Cardwell believes the incidents we are seeing this year have always occurred but are witnessed more now thanks to increased accessibility.

Despite the negative happenings at some of the Donald Trump rallies in other states, Cardwell is convinced any GOP presidential primary rally in Indiana will only be met with Hoosier hospitality. Regardless, Indiana's delegates will likely be a hot commodity in a race that is shaping up to be — if nothing else — entertaining.

Hoosier Democrats

Here's what we have thus far on the Democratic side of things; a contested primary, lots and lots of differing talking points, and nerves all around. Before Super Tuesday, we really didn't have a strong idea of who the nomination was leaning toward. After Super Tuesday, we still don't have a very clear idea.

After Super Tuesday, almost half of the delegates have wholly decided on their vote. Hillary Clinton won seven states, while Bernie Sanders won four. However, some of these races were too close to call – Massachusetts for example, where Hillary won by 1 percent.

What does this contested primary mean for Indiana? Could Indiana Democratic voters play a roll in this primary, and shape the race for the rest of the nation?

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, says of contested primaries: "The more activity during a primary season, the better. An active presidential campaign increases voter knowledge and whatever gets more people to vote, we want people to have the best possible information." While there are some advantages to knowing who the nominee is early on, a competitive primary has "more advantages." Competitive primaries allow the state to prepare and plan for the National Democratic party's eventual candidate nomination, and get more voters involved in the process.

Indiana is important in this primary vote, and Marion County holds a lot of weight for Democrats. Fifteen percent of Democratic primary votes come from Marion County alone, out of 92 counties in the state. Looking back at 2008, Barack Obama won the primary vote in Marion County, but lost to Hillary Clinton statewide by less than 1 percent. However, Obama's popularity in Marion County eventually played a role in the Marion County Democratic Party's backing of his presidential nomination, and the support of Marion County can make or break a candidate in Indiana.

After the results of Super Tuesday, the question now lies with individual states and their primary election results. Although Hillary won more states and delegates on Super Tuesday, Bernie and his #FeelTheBern supporters aren't backing down anytime soon.

"Having a contested primary is usually a net positive," says Josh Peters, political director of the Marion County Democratic Party. "The amount of people that become involved in the political process is a lot greater than if the nominee was already known. It allows the state to become focused, and causes voters to seek out more information about candidates to make an informed decision."

So what happens if Hillary and Bernie come to Indiana to advocate for their campaigns before the state votes in the primary? "It's a pretty last-minute decision, on the campaign's part. Whatever they ask for, Indiana will help. We do what we can for both campaigns in equal measure. It's usually so last minute that it's all-hands-on-deck," says Peters.

Indiana's primary is held on Tuesday, May 3 and has the potential to have a lot of influence in the national Democratic candidate conversation.

Delegate totals as of March 9:

Hillary Clinton: 1,220

Bernie Sanders: 571

(Number of delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination: 2,383)

Donald Trump: 446

Ted Cruz: 347

Marco Rubio: 151

John Kasich: 54

(Number of delegates needed to win the Republican nomination: 1,237)

Vote, Hoosiers! It matters. If you’re not registered to vote yet, go to indianavoters.com — the process is quick and easy. Voter registration ends on April 4 and your voice, your vote, and your thoughts count.

Want more information from your state party?

Republicans — go to indiana.gop

Democrats — go to indems.org


News Editor

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