Sabato's Crystal Ball

Indiana Races

House Outlook for 2008

Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?

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Indiana (03)

Outlook: Likely Republican


Background

In many ways, this overwhelmingly Republican district in the Hoosier state should not even be considered a contest. The Republican incumbent Mark Souder is running for his eighth term against Democratic political newcomer and recent law graduate Michael Montagano. This northeast corner of Indiana has not elected a Democrat to Congress since 1992. President Bush took it by more than 30 percent margins in both 2000 and 2004, and Souder also won his 2002 and 2004 contests by more than 30 percent.

But this year’s race is also closer than Souder would like. Having won in 2006 54%-46%, he can hardly be considered safe. Montagano has managed to keep up on fundraising, raising a total of $620,493 to Souder’s $775,600. This has led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to add the district to its list of possible Republican incumbent-knock-outs and pour in $150,000 for ads. Combine this with Republican troubles at the national level, and you have yourself a contest. While polls in the spring showed Souder leading by a two to one margin, more recent ones show the gap narrowing.

Despite all this, Montagano will have a tough time trying to hand his party their sixth House Seat in Indiana. In the remaining weeks, Souder has $451,756 cash on hand to Montagano’s $31,255. Montagano is a Democrat running in a strong Republican district where his opponent enjoys significant name recognition. He has also had trouble trying to solidify his Democratic base while drawing in Republicans and independents. A commercial he put out publicizing the fact that he supports a constitutional ban on abortion and opposes any gun restrictions provoked some anger among Democrats. Thus, while Souder may need to sweat a little more for a victory, he still has a good chance at an eighth term.

Candidates

Mark Souder (I) – Republican – Current U.S. Representative
Website

Michael Montagano – Democrat – Law school graduate
Website

Indiana (08)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


May 27, 2008 Update:

The bill is set. Democratic freshman Brad Ellsworth will face Republican nominee Greg Goode in the November general election. Ellsworth has the early advantage, especially where fundraising is concerned, with almost three-quarters of a million dollars on hand, compared to Goode’s $43,000.


Background

There’s a new sheriff in town in Indiana’s eighth congressional district. After defeating the unconventional campaign of former Representative Jeff Hostettler, newly minted congressman and former sheriff Brad Ellsworth seems likely to win reelection in a highly conservative district. Ellsworth’s first term has been relatively mistake-free and highlighted by the unlikely praise from Republican Mitch Daniels that Ellsworth was “off to a great start”.

As a result, Ellsworth has drawn only one serious challenger: Indiana State University provost Greg Goode. Goode, also a former chief of staff to Representative Brian Kearns, is a credible candidate, but the race has been slow to develop. The longer Goode waits to engage Ellsworth politically, the better the incumbent’s chances for reelection. Given the district’s demographics, Ellsworth will have to fight for his seat sometime—but odds are that this won’t be the year.

Candidates

Brad Ellsworth (I) – Democrat – Current U.S. Representative
Website

Greg Goode – Republican – Indiana State University provost, former chief of staff to Rep. Brian Kearns
Website

Indiana (09)

Outlook: Likely Democratic


May 27, 2008 Update:

For the fourth election in a row, Democrat Baron Hill will face Republican Mike Sodrel for the chance to represent Indiana’s 9th district. This time, Hill has the advantage of incumbency and better fundraising, with almost $1 million cash on hand to Sodrel’s $300,000. Still, the past contests have followed a simple pattern: in presidential election years, Sodrel wins; in mid-term years, Hill wins. With 2008 being a presidential election year in a district where Bush won 59 percent in 2004, don’t write off Sodrel yet.


Background

Fourth time’s the charm? That’s what former Republican Representative Mike Sodrel is hoping in his biannual slugfest in Indiana’s ”bloody ninth” congressional district. Current Congressman Baron Hill won in the midterm elections of 2002 and 2006, while Sodrel took the seat on the back of the Bush reelection in 2004. Sodrel, who wavered in his decision to enter, is banking on a Hillary Clinton candidacy to swing marginal Indiana voters to the Republican side, but Hill can counter with his massive incumbent warchest.

Both candidates are battle tested and campaign savvy, and Hill’s incumbency advantage balances against the district’s slight conservative lean. All in all, this promises to be another spirited contest in the ”bloody ninth” so sit back, relax, and watch the fireworks!

Candidates

Baron Hill (I) – Democrat – current Congressman
Website

Mike Sodrel – Republican – former Congressman from the Indiana 9th
Website