Huston: Who Was ‘Leading’ the Indiana GOP?

May 5, 2016

I made my guesstimate of the results of the Indiana primary before the first polling was done in the state. My guess was Trump would carry the state and at least six out of nine congressional districts. I thought Trump would be strongest in Lake County and south of U.S. 40 and weakest in the upper reaches of the I-69 Corridor. I figured Kasich’s only shot would be in the northern suburbs of Indianapolis. To the extent my assessment proved accurate, Cruz would carry the Second and Third Congressional Districts, Kasich would win the Fifth District, and Trump would sweep the rest.

As it turned out, I underestimated the breadth of Trump’s electoral reach. He carried the state and each of the nine districts. I was correct, however, in relative terms. Trump was weakest in the Second and Third Districts: Cruz won Elkhart County in the Second and Allen (Fort Wayne), Adams, Whitely and Wells Counties in the Third. Except for tiny Union County along the Ohio border where Kasich won 13.8 percent with 203 votes, the Ohio Governor was strongest in Boone and Hamilton Counties in the Fifth District, pulling 11.3 percent of the vote in Boone (Zionsville-Lebanon) and 12.7 percent in Hamilton (Carmel-Westfield-Fishers).

Among the districts, Trump won his biggest victory as expected in the First District (Gary-East Chicago-Hammond) which George Wallace carried in the 1964 Democratic presidential primary, but among the counties he drew his largest share (68.3 percent) in Sullivan County in the “Bloody” Eighth District in the southwestern part of the state. In neighboring Vigo County (which has the distinction of having voted for the winning candidate in every presidential election since 1956), Trump took 63.6 percent of the vote.

The Trump sweep in Indiana raises the question of what it means to be a Republican “leader” in the state. With the exception of former Republican state chairman Rex Early, who chaired the Trump campaign, and one or two state representatives, no prominent Republican officeholder or party official endorsed Trump’s candidacy. It is pretty hard to lead troops when 53 percent of them are headed in the opposite direction from you.

— Tom Charles Huston


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