In 2008, Indiana was a part of something exciting, at least for Democrats. Two brilliant candidates were neck and neck at this point, and Indiana was about to be the center of the political world for just under two months.
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama each came to Indiana a ton during the campaign, and the fight was so close in the end that Clinton, who had been a heavy favorite, could only muster a close victory. Combined with Obama's win in North Carolina the same night, it became clear that ultimately, he was the man to beat.
Indiana made a difference again in November as, for the first time since 1964, the state went blue on Election Night for Senator Barack Obama. We were a part of something big. Indiana mattered.
Well, it's going to matter again as the Republicans come to our state, but I can't help but feel different. President Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee. The four-way Republican craziness heads to our state as Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum are locked in a race for the bottom culture vulture fight as each tries to outdo the other to prove who can attract enough hardcore conservatives to win the base and pull ahead in the delegate count.
Romney is the front-runner, but he can't seem to shake anyone off at this point. Santorum and Gingrich are locked to each leg like little kids that don't want to let go, and Ron Paul is running behind with money and an organization but with not a whole lot to show for it. So, soon, you'll see the negative ads start running and the culture war will begin. It's a must different picture than 2008.
Hillary and Barack were pretty much talking ideas by this point. They were talking about solutions and weren't throwing major body blows at each other. Hillary was pushing her jobs, jobs, jobs platform, and Barack was out there talking about change. There was some negativity like Clinton's 3:00 a.m. ad that questioned Obama's readiness, but the candidates weren't trying to muscle at each other over who was the most liberal or the most moderate. They were connecting with voters, and it was exciting.
There's just not much to excite Republicans right now. You get the feeling that they just want this painful chapter to be over and done with. Privately, unless they are just Anti-Obama, they will tell you that they aren't happy with their choices (except for the Ron Paul supporters...they love their guy).
So, I don't know how to handicap this one. The competitive Senate race between Richard Mourdock and Richard Lugar could help swing this primary, but my radar on the "R" side is just not what it is on the "D" side.
All I know is that Indiana's going to matter again, but it's going to feel entirely different in 2012.