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Republicans plan early strategy to win back Indiana

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Indiana Republicans took their first presidential loss in 40 years when Barack Obama carried the rock-ribbed GOP state. They're not about to let it happen again if they can help it.

To return the state to the GOP column and nail it there, national Republicans say they plan to treat Indiana as if it were a long-standing battleground state. State Republicans hope to recreate the excitement that fired up underdog Indiana Democrats in 2008, when Hillary Clinton and Obama campaigned extensively throughout the state in a lengthy primary battle that dragged through May, creating a buzz that lasted until the general election.

By contrast, GOP nominee John McCain largely took Indiana for granted, focusing his energy on actual battleground states. Obama won the state in November by a little more than 30,000 votes.

Now the state is fairly crawling with GOP candidates.

The state party has sponsored four presidential forums since August. Those events brought Republican candidates like pizza magnate Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former U.S. Ambassador to China John Huntsman to Indiana and helped add 1,000 names to the party's e-mail list, party spokesman Pete Seat said.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, whose YouTube videos about the budget crisis have given him a high profile, headlined the state party's fall fundraiser with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus last Friday. Cain visited the exclusive Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis at the same time.

"It's nice that we're getting this kind of attention, it's creating interest in the election," Garry Petersen said last week, before listening to Perry speak to roughly 300 Republicans at the Columbia Club. Petersen and his wife, Terri, have long been active in Indiana Republican politics and said this is the most attention the state has gotten from Republican presidential candidates since the early 1980s.

"Our responsibility is to take care of our backyard here and to make sure that Indiana is fired up. We have a network of folks that are willing to sacrifice their time and just make sure that Barack Obama is one and done," Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb said.

Obama was the first Democrat to win Indiana since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And even though they voted three separate Democratic governors into office in the intervening years, Hoosiers voters so reliably went for whomever the Republicans offered nationally for 44 years.

That near-certainty that any Republican presidential nominee would carry the state made both sides complacent until Obama's win in 2008. It has sent some of the most conservative representatives to Congress, including Dan Burton, Dan Coats and Dan Quayle, who was vice president under President George H.W. Bush.

To keep Indiana's reputation for producing conservative wins, the RNC plans to begin sending staffers and money to Indiana in the spring, said Rick Wiley, RNC political director. Republicans learned a hard lesson in Indiana in 2008 when they waited until after McCain's nomination had been locked up to begin organizing their campaign, he said.

"We're going to treat it as a battleground state. We're going to treat as though we're running behind in the state," Wiley said Tuesday. He would not say how much the national party plans to spend in the state or how many full-time staff they will pay to work there.

For its part, the Obama campaign is touting a continued staff presence in Indiana that has been maintained since Obama took office. The re-election effort has maintained between two and four full-time staffers in Indiana since 2008, according to an Indiana Democratic source who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Obama campaign does not want to release campaign staff numbers.

Those staffers have been running phone banks and helping the state's Democratic mayoral candidates, the source said. The Obama campaign is running weekly phone banks from the state Democratic party headquarters every Tuesday, according to the campaign website.

Obama's Indiana supporters say even if the president loses Indiana next year they are optimistic the network they built in 2008 has scared Republicans enough to at least draw away resources from other battleground states.

"I think they better" campaign hard in Indiana, said Kip Tew, a former Indiana Democratic Party chairman who led Obama's Indiana efforts in 2008. "They didn't the last time and they lost, so they probably learned a lesson."

In the meantime, both parties are using Indiana's statewide municipal elections as training ahead of next year's battle. Indiana Republicans have held four training sessions with mayoral candidates and volunteers, sending out executive director Justin Garrett to lead the events throughout the state.

"It's a long road ahead of us," GOP state chairman Holcomb said. "We need to take nothing for granted and make sure that Indiana turns red."

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  • election 2012
    i pray that the whole republican party that was buried in 2008 will stay there.republicans do not care about the people in indiana.
  • return to what?
    Surely you don't think what we had before was working. Well I guess it was for some profiteering entity. I think you will find that the so called obamacare will stand. The republicans will be hard pressed to muster the votes to undo overdue healthcare protections for average americans. And before they do what is their alternative to protect Americans from shady cherry picking insurance companies,whom make most of their money off the taxpayer anyway.
  • Republican strategy
    Republicans need to take their focus off defeating Obama and focus on providing real solutions to our biggest challenges. The party might win the votes of extremists with the current strategy, but not the rational, silent majority. Hopefully, Indiana will not revert back to old ways of voting in conservatives that offer nothing more than extreme political rhetoric and no substance. We need political leaders that behave like adults and know how to cooperate and compromise to make tough decisions.
  • all the above
    I also does not want a Republican run for major offices. What the Republican is putting up it is sad. Republican has to have a politician that will be able to put the people first and help the people all I see is griping, complaining and trying to get Obama out of the White House. I know that if a Republican candidate get into the White house, this country will be run on a religious beliefs. Which is not right and goes against the law in my opinion.
  • Mark......
    I guess Mark prefers the previous administrations people killing agenda
  • Obama must be stopped
    The Republicans are doing what they were sent to do by the voters; stop Obama and his big government agenda. It will take a filibuster proof majority in the Senate and the presidency to overturn the Obamacare and begin the process of rolling back the job-killing regulations.
    • This aint no party
      The Republican party today is the party against Obama. They do not care about the people in Indiana or anywhere else. They consistently vote against anything Obama puts forward. I really hope they do not "win" elections until they learn to vote for policies that help the citizens of the county and not just their own political party.
      • Wouldn't count on it
        I honestly feel sorry for Republicans who deserve far better representation than the current list of wingnuts they have on the ballot. Obama 2012!
      • Really?
        We will see what happens what the Republicans never count on are the younger generation voting that make a big impact in a Presidential election.
      • Game?
        I don't understand this.....are we a game? Government and leadership is not a 'beat the other guy' scenario. It is supposed to provide us the best possible choice to lead our local, state and national government. They need to remove the party designation all together so people would stop voting for a symbol or a color and actually vote on policy.
      • Try if you want...
        Try to take the state back if you want, but I assure you that the Democratic Party will not go down without a fight. Still here and we still believe in our President.

        The only chance republicans have is to seat a middle of the road non-ideological candidate. So far it doesn't seem like that is going to happen. Romney is the best choice so far, but he will have problems with the overly religious right wing ("the base") because he is a mormon.

        Hold on to your hats people. It is going to be a wild year! OBAMA 2012!

        ***Que the crazies. Flaming rants only please***
      • GOP?
        I'd absolutely love not to see the GOP make any gains this 2012 election. We can't afford more years of their inability to lead.

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