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The Real News Network interviews Assistant Professor of Political Science Marie Eisenstein from Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana. Professor Eisenstein says that Northwest Indiana will decide that state’s race, and the voter profile favors Clinton. A recent poll shows Clinton 15% ahead in NW Indiana. But the undecided vote is very high so the race may be hard to predict.

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Northwest Indiana may decide the Indiana primary, and the Indiana primary just might decide who is the Democratic nominee for president. Everyone thought Northwest Indiana would naturally be Obama territory, just outside of Chicago, but a poll in a local newspaper a couple of days ago shows Senator Clinton 15 points ahead of Obama, and I think to the surprise of people who don’t live in Indiana. We’re joined now by Marie Eisenstein, a professor of political science, at the University of Indiana northwest. Marie, can you explain why you think this is happening?

ASST. PROF. MARIE EISENSTEIN, POLITICAL SCIENCE, INDIANA UNIVERSITY NORTHWEST: I think that Senator Clinton is so far ahead in that poll because the demographics of Northwest Indiana really tend to favor her. Of course, there is a large African-American population here in Northwest Indiana, to probably about 20, 22 percent, which is greater than the state-wide African-American population. But the rest of the demographics of Northwest Indiana tend to be non-college educated, blue collar workforce. There is approximately 15 percent of the population that are Hispanics, a very large percentage of Catholic voters. And these are demographics that have been voting proportionally—larger proportions voting for Hillary Clinton than for Barack Obama. And so she’s winning, she’s winning those votes.

JAY: Now, when I was Indiana, what I heard from people that were tending to vote for Senator Clinton actually was not about Rev. Wright, even though I was expecting that. It was really more about the economic issues, that people were balancing—I think you could describe it as hope versus fear, that there’s such a fear of this coming recession, that there seemed to be a feeling amongst some of the workers I talked to that Hillary seems more grounded, more—they used the word realistic, more practical, that message seemed to be seeping through more. Whether it’s true or not I don’t know, but is there any sense of that on your part?

EISENSTEIN: I can’t say that there’s any sense of that. All I can speak to is the historical demographics of Northwest Indiana, because we’ve been historically this manufacturing, industrial area, and we’re an area that’s been devastated over the last 20, 25 years by the different industries that have dwindled in its workforce, such as the steel industry. So I can understand why these workers, when presented with this information, might say something like, “Look, Hillary just seems to be the person who has a better grasp or a more practical take on how to fix these economic conditions. And I can certainly understand why in Northwest Indiana the issue of the economy looms large. It’s an issue that seems to loom large whether it’s this election or any election in the recent past.

JAY: Will Northwest Indiana decide who wins Indiana?

EISENSTEIN: I think that Northwest Indiana will play the pivotal role in deciding whether it will be Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton that wins the state of Indiana. We are the second most populated area of the state. We have the highest concentration of Democrats. And even though we’re not as big as Marion County, Marion County isn’t that much bigger than us. We are the single-most Democratic-stalwart area of the state. There is no Republican Party locally here to speak of. So in a sense, even individuals who might call themselves Republicans don’t usually vote in any sort of Republican primary because there’s never a primary of consequence.

JAY: And right now Obama is the underdog.

EISENSTEIN: Right now, Obama is the underdog, yes.

JAY: And for him, in terms of this psychological war with superdelegates, he has to make sure the margin of victory is not too big, I suppose, is his real challenge here. But 15 points in Northwest Indiana. If she holds on to what the polls show, what would that represent in terms of an overall vote in Indiana? She may win, but does she still win just by a very small margin? Or does that up her numbers for the whole state?

EISENSTEIN: I don’t think that she would win Indiana by 15 points across the state, but I do think that she has the chance of doing the same thing that she did in Pennsylvania, which is winning by nine or ten percentage points, which of course in reality for Hillary Clinton it’s a must—she must come out with a very strong win here in Indiana, because North Carolina favors Barack Obama. So if she’s going to make any argument to the superdelegates that she is the candidate to represent the Democrats in the fall, she has to be able to show a very big win here in Indiana. In fact, locally, there’s been a lot of discussion that Hillary Clinton and her representatives have been all throughout Northwest Indiana with far more personal visits, face time, if you will, in Northwest Indiana than Barack Obama. And I was asked about this before, and I really believe that this represents the fact that she knows that she has to win Indiana by a really nice margin, a nine, ten percent margin in Northwest Indiana. She apparently has gotten good advice and understands just how concentrated the Democratic vote here is in Northwest Indiana, and that she needs to turn out that vote.

JAY: There’s been articles in The New York Times and in other newspapers about Bill Clinton, particularly, campaigning in areas of Indiana that are normally considered either Republican areas, right-wing, even areas with quite racist histories. And there’s been some inference that the Clinton campaign is trying to tap into some of that darker history. Do you see any evidence of that? And how do you think it might play out?

EISENSTEIN: Yeah, I really can’t say that I see evidence that Bill or Hillary Clinton is trying to tap into some racist history of Indiana, trying to turn out the votes. I think that a more likely explanation is because of the voting rules here in Indiana, where you may have to be willing to have a D or an R next to your name on the poll book saying what sort of primary ballot you took, there’s no other test, so you don’t have to be someone who’s always voted in a Democratic primary to take a Democratic ballot in this primary. So the Independents and the Republicans, particularly here in Northwest Indiana, where again there’s just no Republican races of which to speak, that they’re really trying to tap individuals who might not vote in the primary otherwise, or have them take Democratic ballots when they might not otherwise, to get them to vote in this primary.

JAY: All right. Thank you very much for your time.

EISENSTEIN: Thank you.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Marie A. Eisenstein (Ph.D. Purdue University) is Assistant Professor of Political Science in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Political Science, Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana. Author of “Religion and the Politics of Tolerance: How Christianity Builds Democracy”