Brian Howey: Clinton approaches 2016 differently than 2008
Sunday, April 03, 2016 8:14 PM
BLOOMINGTON – Eight years ago, Hoosier political junkies watched and participated what many of us thought would be a once-in-a-generation spectacle due to our late May primary, the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama Democratic primary.
Hillary Clinton campaigns at Allison Transmission during the 2008 Indiana Democratic presidential primary. (HPI Photo by Brian A. Howey)
For nearly six weeks, the candidates, former President Bill Clinton and next of kin made more than 50 appearances in our state, held press conferences, and packed high school gyms. When the dust settled, Hillary Clinton won by a little more than 12,000 votes, or less than 1 percent. Even Republicans, exhorted by radio commentator Rush Limbaugh urging “chaos” took part, with nearly 10 percent of the primary turnout.
Well, there’re back.
Not only are we likely to see a crazy battle royale between Republicans Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the Clinton race against Sen. Bernie Sanders won’t be wrapped by up our May 3 primary. Clinton seemed to be well on her way to the nomination on March 15 when she won five states, including Florida and Illinois. But since then Sanders has won five of six contests. Clinton has a 1,243- to 975-delegate lead as well as far more super delegates, 469 to 31. The math is tough for Sanders, but not impossible.
There are key differences between this coming “show” (as Trump calls it) and 2008.
First, Clinton and Obama came to Indiana separated by fewer than 100 delegates. The lesson that the Clinton campaign, to be headed in Indiana by Peter Hanscom of Indiana Competes, learned in 2008 wasn’t so much winning states as winning delegates. The Clinton campaign is being described as “methodical” in its approach to compiling delegates. “It is squarely focused on getting a majority of the delegates,” one Democratic source said. “Winning states doesn’t equate momentum. It’s about putting coalition together and winning delegates.”
Second, the campaign calendar is vastly different. In 2008, Clinton and Obama began actively campaigning in the state on March 16 when the Illinois senator appeared in Plainfield. The month of April was much more open, with the Pennsylvania primary (won by Clinton) two weeks before and North Carolina (won by Obama) on the same day. This year, the Wisconsin primary is April 5, New York is on April 19 and then the mid-Atlantic states (Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware) vote the week prior to Indiana. “We’re not going to have the kind of campaign we saw in 2008 because of the calendar,” said Dan Parker, who was Indiana Democratic chairman in 2008 and is now working on behalf of Clinton. “The calendar frees up on April 27 and Indiana is the only state voting on May 3.”
Hanscom told me that he is developing a statewide campaign for Clinton. “We will be operational within a week,” Hanscom said, saying the campaign will be “widespread” and looking for office state and volunteers across Indiana. “I would expect to see broad support from many familiar faces, both past and current elected officials. We award of delegates proportionately by congressional district. We will compete in all areas of the state.”
Sanders has opened an office in Broad Ripple and my colleague Maureen Hayden of CNHI reported that he has a staff of 20 people and another half dozen field offices will open. Sanders will be making a push for younger voters that has fueled his campaign, as well as organized labor.
There is also a difference in delegates. In 2008 Indiana had 13 super delegates (mostly elected officials and senior party members) with five going with Clinton (Parker, Phoebe Crane, U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, and former East Chicago mayor Bob Pastrick) and eight for Obama (Joe Andrew, IDP Vice Chair Cordelia Lewis Burks, U.S. Reps. Baron Hill, Andre Carson, Pete Visclosky and Joe Donnelly, Joe Hogsett, and the UAW’s Connie Thurman).
This year Indiana has nine super delegates: Carson, Visclosky, Donnelly, Burks and IDP Chairman John Zody defined by rule; three elected, including Dean Boerste, David Frye and Elkhart County Chair Shari Mellin; with Indianapolis attorney Lacy Johnson a national at-large delegate. Sources are telling me that Clinton has all but two of the super delegates committed, with Visclosky and Zody staying neutral.
Sen. Donnelly is fully on board with Clinton. Former senator and governor Evan Bayh, mentioned as a potential Clinton running mate, can be expected to campaign on her behalf and maybe dole out some of his $10 million war chest.
While Clinton won Indiana, there are some 2008 statistics that could portend well for Sanders. According to exit polls, 78 percent of voters were white, including 10 percent of Republicans who crossed over (that won’t happen this time due to the GOP race). Obama carried younger voters 59-41 percent, Clinton older voters 58-42 percent. Obama won poor voters 58-42 percent, Clinton carried the middle class 53-47 percent.
Who is favored? Clinton is the “establishment” candidate, but Sanders and Trump are feeding off widespread discontent with Washington. Sanders won an upset victory in Michigan and nearly pulled one off in Illinois. Clinton won Ohio convincingly.
Depending on what happens Tuesday in Wisconsin, my educated guess is we may be looking at another tossup.