How Indiana votes might decide the fate of the Republic tonight, but Indiana hasn’t made up its mind. This is the conclusion I have reached after spending the last 36 hours here volunteering for Ted Cruz with my Resurgent colleague Josh Hammer, largely in the South Bend and Mishawaka area.
Four quick observations:
- Indiana voters are still making up their minds. This is the first time that Indiana has been this important in a Republican primary in most Hoosiers’ lifetimes. Unlike in earlier voting states (like Iowa) where deciding who the major parties nominate is part of citizens’ identities when they enter the polling place, politics is not part of the Hoosier DNA. These are ordinary people who are usually left alone, and who probably want to be left alone. This probably one reason it has become a recent media cliche that Indiana is weird and hard to poll. That’s why yesterday many of the doors I knocked on turned into long conversations with voters still weighing their options.
- The polling lines are not long. I visited a polling location with some local friends as they went to cast their ballots for Cruz. From my experience in other states, crowds were smaller and lines were not as long. It took my friends less than 10 minutes. This is the very definition of anecdotal evidence, but it’s possible that turnout actually, well, turns out to be lower than expected.
- Cruz has a volunteer-heavy, staff-light army, but Trump is purchasing his campaign workers. Trump does have a ground-game and 40 or so paid staff working in the state, but his calls are coming into Indiana from Trump Tower in New York, while Cruz has field offices embedded across the state and volunteers numbering around 3000. We’ll see how much the homegrown volunteer army matters tonight.
- Trump has the benefit of being establishment, but he continues to undermine himself. This is the year of the outsider, so this observation sounds odd. But typically the Indiana primary is not competitive, so primary voters in Indiana are habituated to support the frontrunner — who is usually an establishment candidate arguing for unity against the Democrats with an electability argument. This is the cognitive dissonance of the present moment which keeps this race so interesting: Trump continues to undermine what should be his natural advantage by making off-the-wall statements about Ted Cruz’s father … assassinating JFK. And yes, I did hear that headline echoing in the Panera this morning.
Either way, I am grateful to see the front lines and have the opportunity to fight here.