Sabatos Crystal Ball

Indiana Races

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Indiana (02)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Joe Donnelly (D) unseated Rep. Chris Chocola (R) with 54% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Joe Donnelly (D) will unseat Rep. Chris Chocola (R). If there’s one candidate in the country who could still win after never having led in a single poll all election cycle, it’s Chris Chocola. We hear his get-out-the-vote operation is strong, but in the end, we believe that the double whammy of severe state AND federal GOP unpopularity-not to mention local controversies over time zones and toll roads-will be too much for Chocola to overcome. We believe Donnelly will prevail in a closer-than-expected race.

September 28, 2006 Update:

Joe Donnelly‘s lead over incumbent Republican Congressman Chris Chocola continues to grow. The Chocola campaign obviously knows that the incumbent is in trouble as they have requested five debates, Donnelly has only agreed to three. Chocola has benefited from campaigning with President Bush in the past; however, issues such as the Iraq war are very unpopular in the 2nd District. Will an October visit by First Lady Laura Bush succeed in reminding voters of why they should re-elect the congressman without evoking negative feelings associated with her husband and the war?

Meredith Ramsey, Crystal Ball Midwestern Regional Correspondent

July 13, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Chris Chocola has earned a reputation as one of his caucus’s strongest campaigners, and it’s sure to help his cause in a year when his party’s governor is unpopular and Democrats are hoping a wave will wash away conservative incumbents in marginal districts such as this one. If Democrats can’t put his seat in play this year, they may never be able to. So far, Chocola has outraised Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly impressively, and remains a solid favorite in November.

February 16, 2006 Update:

Should the Crystal Ball buy into both of the polls showing Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly with a lead over GOP Rep. Chis Chocola? Considering Chocola’s significant political skills, we’re hard-pressed to label him ripe for defeat, but it’s possible GOP fortunes are especially headed south in South Bend. We’ll be watching this one closely.


February 2006 Outlook:

Sophomore GOP Rep. Chris Chocola has still not broken 55 percent of the vote in this South Bend-area district, and Democratic businessman Joe Donnelly is following up on his 45 percent showing in 2004 with another run this year. Chocola, however, has not been one to rest on his laurels, and works his district hard. It will take a major Democratic tide to make this race close.

Candidates

Joe Donnelly (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,333,572 | Total Spent: $1,096,081
Website

Chris Chocola (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,955,623 | Total Spent: $2,496,120
Website

Indiana (03)

Outlook: Likely Republican


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted Rep. Mark Souder (R) won reelection over Tom Hayhurst (D) with 54% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Mark Souder (R) will win reelection over Tom Hayhurst (D). This Fort Wayne-based district emerged on Democrats’ radar screen very late in the cycle, but the toxic political environment for Indiana Republicans led more than a few strategists to wonder if more GOP targets in the Hoosier State couldn’t be identified. Souder has won with solid margins in this solidly GOP district, but his win percentage could be cut substantially in this year’s race against the veteran and local official Hayhurst.


Candidates

Mark Souder (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $396,117 | Total Spent: $357,387
Website

Thomas Hayhurst – Democrat – Total Raised: $639,086 | Total Spent: $563,346
Website

Indiana (07)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Rep. Julia Carson (D) won reelection over Eric Dickerson (R) with 54% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Julia Carson (D) will win reelection over Eric Dickerson (R). We didn’t add this district to our list in response to any polls that emerged recently showing the race to be close; we added it because national Democrats’ anxieties in response led them to mount an attack mail piece against Dickerson that some speculators in the district found to contain over-the-top allegations against his personal history. Carson has consistently underperformed in this reliably Democratic district, and if Indiana voters are in a “throw the bums out” mood tomorrow, her margin of victory could drop to the high single digits.


Candidates

Indiana (08)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Brad Ellsworth (D) unseated Rep. John Hostettler (R) with 61% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Brad Ellsworth (D) will unseat Rep. John Hostettler (R). A non-traditional campaigner who has always squeaked by through word of mouth and on a shoestring
budget, Hostettler has finally met his match in Ellsworth. The national GOP’s abandonment of Hostettler may be intended to make a national example out of Ellsworth; the message is: if you do not fundraise for yourself, do not expect us to come in and save you.

September 28, 2006 Update:

Rep. Josh Hostettler was swept into Congress as part of the 1994 Republican Revolution, could a similar political climate that is hostile to the Republicans carry him out of office? The latest poll shows Hostettler trailing his opponent by 15 points with 16 percent of the 8th District’s electorate undecided. The NRCC has discounted the merits of the poll and have instead focused on a poll conducted earlier in the month which shows Hostettler trailing by 4 points which is within the margin of error. Nevertheless, a large portion of the 8th District’s electorate remains undecided just over a month out from Election Day.

Will Brad Ellsworth‘s professional campaign coupled with the unpopularity of the president be enough to defeat Hostettler’s “Mayberry-styled” family campaign. In the past Hostettler has relied heavily on funding from the national GOP and this year is proving no different. The two candidates will face off in a debate on October 4th. Ellsworth and Hostettler are both socially conservative but diverge on economic issues. Hostettler did not vote in favor of the Iraq War but has voted to give the military the necessary resources to wage the war.

Meredith Ramsey, Crystal Ball Midwestern Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

Democrats continue to be giddy about the candidacy of Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, but the question now is whether he can weather allegations that his sheriff’s department was negligent in accidentally releasing a convicted child molester. Ellsworth has thus far not directly responded to the ads the NRCC has run on the subject, but we’ll have to judge this dust-up’s staying power before coming to any new conclusions about this southern Indiana shootout.

April 12, 2006 Update:

Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth might be the favorite in this race by now if it weren’t for the fact that national Republicans now have a plausible crime script to use against him. Depending on whom you believe, Ellsworth has been asleep at his prison’s gate or GOP Rep. John Hostettler has been sucking the taxpayers dry for his own salary. Welcome to the Bloody Eighth, tossup-ville 2006!


February 2006 Outlook:

Southwest Indiana’s notorious “Bloody 8th” has seen its fair share of good fights ever since Democrat Francis X. McCloskey emerged the victor after an exceedingly close election and recount in 1984. Since 1994, quirky movement conservative GOP Rep. John Hostettler has managed to hold on to the seat by relying on his own network of grassroots conservative activists, but his seeming inability to break 55 percent, notorious reluctance to raise campaign funds, and controversial statements and behavior (including an illegal weapons possession charge at an airport last year) have earned him perennial target status.

Over the years, Democrats have thrown a wide variety of candidates at Hostettler, only to come up just short. But perhaps they have never fielded a candidate with quite as strong a profile as Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, whose law-and-order background, roots in the district, and base in the population center of the district are major assets Democrats have lacked in past cycles. Add to the mix the flak Hostettler has received at home recently for his lonely House vote against $51 billion in relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina, and it’s clear that Hostettler could face his closest race yet in 2006.

Although Ellsworth’s current 10 to 1 cash-on-hand advantage gives national Republicans heartburn, the Democrat’s detractors were quick to jump on a news report concerning photos that had recently surfaced online featuring the law-and-order Ellsworth’s 19-year-old daughter, a Sophomore at Indiana University, drinking underage. In the current negative electoral environment for Republicans, however, we still rate this race a toss-up, with perhaps an ever-so-slight advantage for the incumbent.

Candidates

Brad Ellsworth (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $ 1,577,181| Total Spent: $1,528,334
Website

John Hostettler (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $509,026 | Total Spent: $269,988
Website

Indiana (09)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

As the Crystal Ball predicted, Baron Hill (D) unseated Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) with 50% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Baron Hill (D) will unseat Rep. Mike Sodrel (R). Who will win this best of three series? We’ll put a thumb on the scale for Hill, who has worked hard and run a determined campaign to reclaim his seat after taking his 2004 loss to Sodrel personally. Of the three Indiana Republicans, Sodrel is most likely to narrowly escape defeat, but that’s about the most we can say in his favor.

September 28, 2006 Update:

Rep. Mike Sodrel joins two other Republican incumbent congressmen in a tough reelection bid in the Hoosier state. It is looking more and more probable that Baron Hill could be able to reclaim the congressional seat that he lost in the 2004 election. A second debate between the two candidates scheduled for October 1st was cancelled because the Sodrel campaign was concerned about missing votes in the House. The Democrat Hill is playing to the culturally conservative sentiments of his district and Sodrel is suffering from his association with an unpopular president and war. Still too close to call, though.

Meredith Ramsey, Crystal Ball Midwestern Regional Correspondent

June 29, 2006 Update:

Earlier in the year, we might have rated neighboring GOP Rep. John Hostettler the slightly more vulnerable Indiana Republican incumbent, but former Democratic Rep. Baron Hill has run a strong comeback bid against GOP Rep. Mike Sodrel here thus far, and former President Bill Clinton will be coming to Indianapolis soon to help Hill fundraise. This is a toss-up, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see Sodrel ultimately fall victim to Indiana’s poor atmosphere for Republicans these days.

February 8, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Mike Sodrel’s razor-thin upset of Democratic Rep. Baron Hill was 2004’s House surprise of the night. And though Sodrel’s political position is aided by his new-found incumbency in this populist, Republican-trending district, such an advantage finds a counterweight in the comparatively horrendous political climate his party faces in 2006. Notably, Indiana is among the first states to report, so a big Hill win here could give the GOP chills early in the evening.


February 2006 Outlook:

Early this year, Hill announced his intention to win back the seat, guaranteeing that both major parties will be spending freely in both southern Indiana districts. While the chief political landmine for Hill remains his problematic vote against the Federal Marriage Amendment, which provided Sodrel with a useful campaign issue in 2004, it is probable that 2006 will present at least a slightly more favorable climate for Indiana Democrats. On the other hand, Sodrel is now the incumbent, with the presumption of reelection that Hill had throughout his own congressional career.

Expect this protracted race to get down and dirty, with both parties yet again spending freely in southern Indiana media markets. Although we originally predicted the campaign to “Bring Back Baron” would face a just slightly uphill battle, Hill has kept pace in the fundraising department and appears determined to run a better campaign than he ran in 2004. We now rate this contest a Toss-up.

Candidates

Baron Hill (I) – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,672,524 | Total Spent: $1,139,317
Website

Mike Sodrel (I) – Republican – Total Raised: | Total Spent:
Website