Thursday, October 23, 2008

NW Indiana Columnists on the election

From Howey Politics

Jerry Davich, Post-Tribune: Oh, to be a fly on the wall over a ballot booth on Election Day during the most historic presidential campaign of our lives. Oh, to watch how many white voters enter the voting site sticking to their promise of voting for Sen. Barack Obama, only to vote for Sen. John McCain instead. Oh, to peek at them in the ballot booth — all alone with their consciences and love of country — after months of saying all the politically correct things to pollsters and pundits, friends and family. Finally, they can be true to themselves. Finally, they can vote with their hearts, not their heads. Finally, without admitting to another soul, they can cast their race-based votes. Think I’m off-base? Or stirring the race-relations pot? Or lacking faith in our country and the democratic process? Think again, all you political Pollyannas, and take off your rose-colored glasses. Sure, the polls have Obama leading by several percentage points over McCain. But those polls are based on what voters say they’ll do on Election Day, not what they’ll actually do in the voting booth. I personally know quite a few white voters who simply are not willing to vote for a black man — any black man. Period. Ever. Not for president of the local PTA board, let alone president of this country.

Doug Ross, Times of Northwest Indiana: Everybody’s talking about the presidential race this year. But how powerful will those coattails be? The answer — until the results become apparent late on Nov. 4, at least — depends on who you listen to. One candidate, a white Democrat, told me of knocking on doors in southern Lake County and encountering what, at least to the candidate, was a surprising number of racists who won’t vote for Barack Obama simply because of his race. It seems that a number of voters — though perhaps not in southern Lake County — who will vote for Obama precisely because he is black. His win in this election would be one more barrier broken, the rationale goes. But enough of race relations and back to the traditional use of “race” in campaign season. I have asked many candidates over the past few weeks how their specific race will be affected by the presidential election, and some are clearly nervous. State Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, a Democrat who replaced Bob Kuzman last year and has just one legislative session for experience, is reminding voters in District 19 that they can split their vote. She worried that Republicans who voted in the Democratic primary because that’s where the hottest races were will vote a straight Republican ticket for the general election. As for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson, she professes to be excited about the coattail effect. “I think it’s having a very positive impact,” she said. “I think that Barack Obama is an incredible candidate,” she gushed on Wednesday in a meeting with The Times editorial board. “He’s very direct,” which resonates with voters, Thompson said. According to the polls, at least, Thompson is either neck-and-neck with Republican Mitch Daniels, the incumbent, or is somewhat behind him. Any coattail effect from an Obama win in a state that traditionally elects Republican presidential candidates could put her over the top. “I think there will be a lot of straight-ticket voting around the state,” she said. Earlier this month, I asked visitors at to say whether they would vote a straight ticket this year. The results surprised me — 38 percent said yes, while only 62 percent said no. That’s with a sample size of 892 respondents in a completely unscientific poll. Is that a sign of complete disgust with President Bush’s policies? Will it buoy all Democrats?