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Indiana Takes National Spotlight in US Presidential Primaries


The last time a Democratic candidate won the general election in the midwest state of Indiana was 1964. Though considered a conservative Republican stronghold, experts say there could be a major shift in the state's politics this election year. Members of the Democratic Party are expected to turn out in record numbers for Indiana's newly critical Presidential Primary election. That has both candidates for the nomination doggedly seeking votes in the final days leading up to the May 6th primary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh has more from Indiana.

Jennifer Peck is among a roomful of volunteers working for one of the candidates seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

She says she is excited to have her home state make a difference, "Now this is the chance that people feel that they can matter, and that their voice can count, so I think that [the midwestern U.S. state of] Indiana will matter."

Peck's candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton, has the endorsement of Indiana's popular Senator Evan Bayh. Analysts expect her to do well in Indiana's rural areas.

Indiana is next to Senator Barack Obama's home state of Illinois, and his campaign headquarters in Chicago. He has not lost a primary contest in the other states bordering Illinois, and his campaign hopes that Indiana follows suit.

But volunteers say many voters here are still undecided. Peck, a former teacher and now stay-at-home mom and waitress say she is concerned about jobs and the economy, like other voters here, "I think the undecided voters are taking their time, and they're looking at both candidates. And they're seeing both candidates come to this area, which hasn't happened in 40 years."

In an effort to win those undecided voters, both candidates have increased their visibility in the state in the days before the May 6th primary. Democrats expect Obama to do well in college towns like South Bend, which is home to the University of Notre Dame.

Until recently students in professor Darren Davis' political science class have watched the excitement and drama of the Democratic Presidential Primary race from a distance.

The night of the Pennsylvania Presidential Primary, Davis says he was intently watching the election returns and polling data, fully aware that Pennsylvania and Indiana voters share similar concerns.

"They are actually more similar in terms of unemployment rate, loss of jobs, state of the economy, outsourcing and the implications that has on the state economy," he said.

As as Davis continues to monitor the polling data, he says it's a close race in the state, "Right now, they are in a statistical dead heat, and I think that Hillary Clinton has a slight chance of actually carrying the state, because of the exit polling data and what we know about Ohio and Pennsylvania."

Obama holds a lead over Clinton in the popular vote from earlier primaries and other states' pledged delegates. Many Democrats say to remain competitive in the race for her party's nomination Clinton must win in Indiana.

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