Long an afterthought in presidential politics, Indiana Democrats - who haven't delivered their state in the general election since 1964, and haven't had a meaningful say in picking their party's nominee since 1968 - see the growing excitement over the contest between Clinton and Barack Obama as an opportunity to build up muscle in places where the party's national reach had atrophied.
The interest in the Clinton-Obama fight, they say, is helping to shift political identities. Thousands of people are signing up as new voters - 383,954 Hoosiers have registered since the 2006 election - while some people who have always voted Republican are deciding that they might just be comfortable casting a ballot for a Democrat.
While national Democratic leaders worry that the protracted campaign could damage their eventual nominee, local Democrats say that the primary race may be the best thing to happen to the party in years.
Former Democratic representative Tim Roemer says Democrats have "a reasonable shot" of winning Indiana for the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson, likening their chances to the odds of making a three-point basketball shot. Although socially conservative, he said, Hoosiers are "economically populist," and both Democratic campaigns have been hammering home their plans for improving job growth.
"The economy and jobs and trade - combined with gas prices - are the issues that Indiana voters are going to be voting on in November," said Roemer, who supports Obama. "The more they see Democrats talking about these issues, the more likely that . . . Indiana is in play."
Unfortunately, pretty much the only 'evidence' the article gives for people being more willing to vote Democratic are a few anecdotes about lifelong Republicans now considering Clinton or Obama. It's heart-warming, but not exactly scientific. Although I do find compelling the idea that because Indiana's Democratic primary might actually matter for once, this will attract more people to the polls and that could carry over to the main election in November. It'll be interesting to see how much of an increase in primary participation there will be this year over years past.
Of course, after hyping the whole "Indiana Republicans might maybe conceivably vote Democratic!" angle in the first half of the story, the article ends with a dose of reality:
To be sure, no political analyst is predicting that Indiana is very likely be a "blue" state in November just because of the primary. After all, Republican presidential nominees have won 10 straight contests here.
"There is always the possibility that the level of excitement will be held through November, but that is a long uphill climb for the state of Indiana," said Andy Downs, who runs the Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Still, analysts say, if Democrats can close the gap with Republicans in the presidential election enough to make the state competitive, it would force the GOP to divert campaign money to Indiana.
And, analysts note, despite Indiana's "red" image, Democrats have been having mounting success in Indiana. They control the state House of Representatives and have more mayors than Republicans. Democrats also took three congressional districts away from Republicans in 2006, giving them a majority of the state's delegation. Now, they are hoping to build on those gains.
Senator Evan Bayh, the Indiana Democrat and former governor who is supporting Clinton, said he shares the worry that if Clinton and Obama attack each other personally too much, it could damage the party's chances in November. But so far, he said, the excitement over the primary election is proving to be a tremendous boon for the state party.
Still. A man can dream.