Indiana’s 2012 split could be Pence and Donnelly
By TOM LoBIANCO The Associated Press September 10, 2012 8:44AM
Republican governor candidate Mike Pence (center) celebrates the opening of the first Victory Center with Lake County GOP chairperson Kim Krull (left) and congressional candidate Joel Phelps in St. John, Ind. Saturday June 16, 2012. The Lake County location is the first of nine centers to open across the state. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
INDIANAPOLIS — As the countdown to the November election picks up steam, establishment Democrats and Republicans have been quietly talking about the possibility that Indiana swing voters could pick Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Donnelly in November.
If Pence and Donnelly both won the election, it would be in keeping with a rich tradition of Hoosier voting that has sent candidates like former Democratic U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh to Washington and Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels to the Statehouse in the same election.
“There is a theory that at a minimum, voters subconsciously look for balance in government,” said Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.
The 2010 elections brought a rare sweep of statewide offices for Republicans. Democrats have never dominated in modern Indiana politics, but have typically maintained at least a foothold, via either the governor’s office or a Senate seat since 1986.
Democratic Party operatives have quietly begun placing bets on who can spy the first dual campaign sign touting Donnelly for Senate and Pence for governor. Indiana’s Republican Party, meanwhile, has worked more as a base of operations for the Pence campaign than Mourdock, who has largely maintained his own organization outside the state party.
But talk of favorite sons has remained largely within party confines, as neither group wants to be seen playing favorites and both need to publicly argue that they can still win both top-ticket races.
That favoritism has already played out on the campaign trail some. Bayh campaigned side-by-side with Donnelly last month but has yet to do the same for Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg.
Daniels is keeping his nose out of both races, following a promise he would no longer talk politics as he gets ready to run Purdue University after his term ends in January.
Joe McKinney, an education professor at Ball State University, might be one of those split-ticket voters Democrats are so desperately searching for. McKinney, a moderate Republican, said he will be voting for Pence and has not decided whether he will vote for Mourdock or Donnelly.
“I think there will be a lot of split tickets,” said McKinney.
In 2008, Hoosiers delivered Indiana for a Democratic president for the first time in 44 years, while also returning Daniels for a second term with a resounding 20-point victory. In 2004, Hoosiers voted overwhelmingly for President George W. Bush and Daniels and also sent Bayh back to Washington for a second term.
Democratic operatives are now hoping that Hoosiers can again look past the presidential race — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to easily retake the state for Republicans — and vote for Donnelly and Pence on the same ballot.
“There is a really good chance of that happening,” Downs said. “Some people say that Indiana is a red state. I think it’s really accurate to say it’s a more moderate to conservative state.”