Can Hillary Clinton win Indiana in 2016? Mitch Stewart thinks so.
Stewart, the battleground state director for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, recently floated the idea that Indiana, among four other states, could end up in Clinton’s Electoral College column if she decides to run for president in 2016. This news made John Gregg, the 2012 Indiana Democrat gubernatorial nominee who is considering another bite at the job, all giddy inside. He exclaimed on Twitter 36 hours after Stewart’s comments first surfaced that it “looks like Hillary Clinton thinks Indiana is in play for 2016!”
Now, in the spirit of the holiday season I would hate to be the one to burst Gregg’s bubble, but really, John?
The belief on Stewart’s part, as reported by Talking Points Memo, is that Democrats can “maximize turnout” by focusing on registration efforts in “Indianapolis and Northwest Indiana.” On the surface, it makes sense. Ten percent of Obama’s entire 2008 general election total in Indiana came from Lake County alone. And another 17 percent was contributed by Marion County. But Clinton is not Obama.
She can’t expect to energize voters in Chicago’s Indiana suburbs the same way Obama did during his first run. Chances are Illinois will be lock-step blue in 2016 (despite the fact that a Republican, Bruce Rauner, was just elected governor there), and there will be no need for Clinton to run television ads in the costly Chicago market. Obama, on the other hand, didn’t have to worry about that. Because of his Second City roots he got all the free earned media any candidate could ever want from Chicago, and the residual effects paid off in Northwest Indiana.
There’s also the problem of Hillary Clinton herself. Sure, she won Indiana’s Democratic primary in 2008 against Obama – albeit by a narrow 1.1 percent margin – but remember that past performance is no indicator of future success. As another Obama alum, David Axelrod, recently pointed out, “Clinton needs a rationale for her candidacy.” Hoosiers have shown not just a preference for Republicans in the past several election cycles, but for ideas. The candidates who prevail in Indiana are the ones running on plans and ideas. Being Hillary Clinton does not a campaign make.
At this point, Stewart and other advisors attached to the Ready for Hillary campaign are doing their best to get in her head and show her is a path to victory beyond the all-but-guaranteed Democrat electoral votes on the map. If Clinton buys into the idea that states like Indiana are up for grabs, the thinking goes, she would be more likely to run. But it’s unlikely to turn out the way Stewart, Clinton or Gregg hope it will.