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Indiana - 9

Polling Data

PollDateSampleSodrel (R)Hill (D)Und.Spread
SurveyUSA10/31 - 11/2538 LV46444Sodrel +2
Reuters/Zogby10/24 - 10/29500 LV46484Hill +2
RT Strategies/CD10/24 - 10/261023 LV43517Hill +8
SurveyUSA10/20 - 10/22519 LV43475Hill +4
Research 200010/17 - 10/20400 LV45478Hill +2
SurveyUSA10/6 - 10/8512 LV46484Hill +2
Reuters/Zogby9/25 - 10/2500 LV384614Hill +8
RT Strategies/CD9/8 - 9/101017 RV42535Hill +11
Research 20009/5 - 9/8400 LV404614Hill +6
Garin Hart Yang (D)3/23 - 3/25401 LV3848--Hill +10
Key State Races: IN-2 | IN-7 | IN-8 | IN-9

(November 3) We felt Sodrel had the best shot of holding on to one of three Indiana Republican seats in jeopardy and today’s SurveyUSA is a sign that he may pull this race out in the end. Now, it would be a mistake to put too much emphasis on one poll, but given the slate of polls in this race since Labor Day, all showing Hill ahead, Sodrel will take the one in November showing him up 2. Research 2000 pollster Del Ali who has polled all three of the Indiana races this cycle, suggests Sodrel has a decent shot at winning because Hill was never able to build up a big lead like Ellsworth in Indiana-8. He’s sees both these districts (IN-8, IN-9) as very similar, but thinks Ellsworth got out in front enough of John Hostettler to win, and wonders whether Sodrel’s ability to keep it close will allow him to pull it out on election day.

The President was in the district this week and we think Sodrel has the ever slightest of edges.

(October 22) Where the Connecticut trio (CT-2, CT-4, CT-5) of vulnerable GOP seats have improved for Republicans these last two months, Indiana’s three GOP districts (IN-2, IN-8, IN9) are creating enormous problems for Republican strategists trying to hang on to the GOP’s majority in the House. Jeff Hostettler in Indiana 8 is the #1 incumbent on RCP’s House list and it is safe to say the GOP is almost guaranteed to lose at least one seat in Indiana and they could very easily be swept and lose three. If there is one incumbent to hang on in this group of three (Hostettler, Sodrel and Chocola) it will probably be Mike Sodrel in Indiana 9.

This will be the third consecutive match up between Sodrel and Hill; the Democrat Hill won with 51% of the vote in 2002 and lost by less than 1500 votes in 2004 in a 49%-49% dead heat. This is a Republican district that voted 59% for President Bush in ’04 and Sodrel has a degree of longer term momentum in the district winning 46% in 2002 followed by 49% in 2004. The latest SurveyUSA pegs the race close with a 2 point lead for Hill 48%-46%, which normally would be considered pretty bad news for an incumbent a month out from election day, but compared to the other Indiana GOP seats in play a 2-point deficit is actually pretty good. This race is currently ranked #15 on RCP’s list and should be a good bellwether as to which party has the edge in the fight for overall control of the House.


in-09.gifCandidates
Mike Sodrel (R)
Baron Hill (D)

Money Race

2004 Results
Congress
Sodrel (R) 49
Hill (D) 49

President
Bush (R) 59
Kerry (D) 40

(August 29) The race in this very conservative southeastern Indiana district features a rubber match between Republican Representative Mike Sodrel and former Democratic representative Baron Hill. Sodrel challenged Hill in 2002 and lost by 9,500 votes. He tried again in 2004 and won by 1,500.

Most people familiar with other analysts’ work probably find themselves surprised at the low position of the “Indiana three” – John Hostettler in IN 08, Mike Sodrel in IN 09, and the recently-added Chris Chocola in IN 02 – on our list. Honestly, I have been surprised by how high these three appear on other lists. Indiana does not seem to me to be the place where strategic Democrats would pin their hopes for 2006. Since the realignment of 1896, the state has only voted for the Democratic presidential candidate four times. Three of those times were part of the biggest blow-outs of the 20th century: 1932, 1936 and 1964. The fourth came in 1912 when the GOP was split between Taft and Roosevelt. So, you could make a strong case that, historically speaking, Indiana is the most reliably Republican state in the Union.

These three districts are each about as conservative as the state. So, when you take district partisanship seriously in composing your list of vulnerable Republican districts, these three races fall quite precipitously. This list does, so these districts do. IN 09, in comparative perspective, elucidates why this is (or should be) intuitive. In 2004, Bush won 59% of the two-party vote in this district. How many districts went so strongly for Clinton in 1992 and then turned around to give the GOP the House seat in 1994? Two, out of 56. One of them – IL 05 – featured a Democratic representative under indictment. The other – CA 01 – featured a rematch like this year’s in IN 09, but one where the incumbent Democrat, after being elected in a district with only a slightly Democratic bent, compiled the most liberal voting record in the 103rd Congress (including taking positions that angered the logging industry, a fairly big constituency in Eureka!). In other words – you need extenuating circumstances to see a district as Republican as IN 09 go to the Democrats.

Does this mean that Sodrel will win? No. Of course not. It means that heavily Republican districts will not be the “first” seats the Democrats win, but the “last” seats. It means that they will be the most difficult to capture – not that they are uncapturable. Sodrel is #13 on our list for good reasons – he is new to the House, he did not win by much, Hill has done a fantastic job raising cash. Of the “Indiana 3,” Sodrel is the most vulnerable. But, this does not mean that we expect him to lose if the Democrats pick up 5 seats. We expect him to lose if the Democrats pick up 20 seats.