Indiana Democrats hope to regain voters on small towns tour

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Following years of disheartening statewide election results, the Indiana Democratic Party is reaching out to the state’s smaller, rural and typically Republican-leaning communities, to reconnect with working-class voters gradually lost to the GOP since the 1970s.

The statewide Small Town Indiana tour is the fourth for the Democrats this year, following trips around the state earlier in the year to promote the American Rescue Plan and the American Jobs Plan, and a tour to talk about Indiana redistricting.


Mike Schmuhl, who was named chairman of the Democratic Party eight months ago, said this has been a “rebuilding year” for the party to get out and get to know voters from all backgrounds.

The 2020 election proved not to be the “blue wave” Democrats in Indiana had hoped for. While the party nationally reclaimed the White House, maintained a majority in the U.S. House and gained a razor-thin advantage in the U.S. Senate, Indiana Democrats were unable to break Republican supermajorities in the Indiana Legislature or win the hotly contested 5th District congressional seat now held by freshman Rep. Victoria Spartz, a Republican.

Today, Republicans hold seven of the state’s nine congressional seats, both U.S. Senate seats, the governor’s office and every other statewide elected post.

“We’ve had some tough times, you know, especially in smaller rural counties. But our approach is we’re not going to think of this as being red or blue, necessarily. There’s this sort of old, old thinking that we don’t need to go into these counties,” Schmuhl said.

The 14-stop tour kicked off this week in North Vernon in southeast Indiana and in Cicero, northeast of Noblesville in Hamilton County. The headlining speaker at the Cicero stop was former Republican state superintendent of public instruction Jennifer McCormick, who officially became a Democrat in June. She talked about public education and criticized Republicans’ recent efforts to make school board elections partisan.

Schmuhl was at the North Vernon stop, where he said 75 people, mostly Democrats, attended. But he said the issues the Democrats are talking about on this tour are “bread and butter” issues everyone cares about, such as child care, education, public safety, broadband and agriculture.

They are touting funding that came from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, including securing $250 million in broadband internet expansion, providing $540 million for childcare service providers, and fully-funding the state’s public school systems.

Schmuhl said the state GOP is likely “perturbed” by the Democrats efforts touring the state, moving into Republican territory in the small towns, and with a former GOP elected official like McCormick.


Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer said in a written statement to IBJ that rural and small town Hoosiers “trust and continue to overwhelmingly support” Republicans, and Democrats continue to represent a smaller part of the state each year. He pointed out that 88% of all county elected officials in Indiana are Republican.

“I hope Mike and others like Jennifer McCormick listen more than they talk. If they do, it’s certain they will hear how these areas wholeheartedly reject the progressive and socialist policies being promoted by Biden, Pelosi, Schumer, the Squad and the Indiana Democrat Party,” Hupfer said.

The Democratic Party, in general, has since the 1970s gradually lost the support of many working-class voters, who are typically in smaller, more rural communities hard hit by the loss of factory jobs. In Indiana, former Democrat strongholds in areas like southern Indiana and northwest Indiana, home to blue-collar workers, dwindled over the years, turning more red in state and national elections.

Laura Wilson, political science professor at the University of Indianapolis, said this flip is coming from the divide in opinions on social issues Democrats are associated with, such as their views on abortion, immigration and gun control. Democrats in Indiana are at a low point now, and have an opportunity to change their strategies, she said.

“It’s been a hard couple [of] election cycles. So they had to revisit their strategy. They could not just keep doing what they’ve been doing in the past,” Wilson said.

Democrats have an opportunity to use messaging to gain those voters back if they showcase their economic priorities that tend to align more with what rural and working class voters want to see.

“Those social issues might isolate the Democrats in those areas more. But if you can communicate the benefits for rural voters of supporting the Democratic Party, and especially from an economic perspective, I think there’s that real offer to the party there,” Wilson said.

Schmuhl does see these tours as an opportunity to gain those lost voters back in some form. He said he hopes to be in a position for a level playing field with Republicans in future elections.

“There’s no question Donald Trump kind of appealed to sort of folks who felt left out or forgotten or overlooked,” Schmuhl said. “This is an effort to say that we are a party that has always been with the working class.”

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16 thoughts on “Indiana Democrats hope to regain voters on small towns tour

    1. Maybe they should talk about how the Republicans incompetent border polices led them having to do this in the first place. Maybe next time when you separate kids from their parents to be cruel, keep better records?

      Besides, writing checks to make problems go away is a total Trump move anyway, why are Republicans so upset?

      By the way, Immigration would solve that labor shortage right quick. Let them stay here for a decade, one strike and you’re out, pay taxes the entire time, then become citizens.

      That I, random internet commenter, have better ideas than the Republican Party should trouble everyone involved.

    2. For someone who’s going to have to work until the day they die, giving out huge sums of money to people that illegally came here for me is the final straw of outrage. Those of us living check to check struggle on and we all know this has nothing to do with compensating them for a wrong, but is something bigger and more sinister. Why so much? Their already offering to let them stay and take care of all of their needs. Isn’t that good enough?

    3. It has everything to do with settling a wrong.

      Not a dime of this money would have been proposed to be spent if Stephen Miller hadn’t come up with the idea of taking kids from parents to scare people from coming to America… then further screwing it up and leaving kids unable to be reunited with their parents.

      Those are the only people getting money (well, besides the lawyers who I’m sure will take their cut). Not “everyone”.

      Get better news, Jeff.

      Remember when conservatives were compassionate and Christians? Now they’ve gone from being not just the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, they aspire to be the robbers in the parable too.

    1. Michael, I get daily texts from WinRed begging me to give to every Republican running for office. Can you let those folks know I’m a head-spinning Democrat?

      And then, maybe deal with the Stephen Miller’s of the Trump administration who knew exactly what they were doing.


      Nielsen told those at the meeting that there were simply not enough resources at DHS, nor at the other agencies that would be involved, to be able to separate parents, prosecute them for crossing the border and return them to their children in a timely manner, according to the two officials who were present. Without a swift process, the children would enter into the custody of Health and Human Services, which was already operating at near capacity.

      Two officials involved in the planning of “zero tolerance” said the Justice Department acknowledged on multiple occasions that U.S. attorneys would not be able to prosecute all parents expeditiously, so sending children to HHS was the most likely outcome.

      As Nielsen had said repeatedly to other officials in the weeks leading up to the meeting, according to two former officials, the process could get messy and children could get lost in an already clogged system.

      Miller saw the separation of families not as an unfortunate byproduct but as a tool to deter more immigration. According to three former officials, he had devised plans that would have separated even more children. Miller, with the support of Sessions, advocated for separating all immigrant families, even those going through civil court proceedings, the former officials said.


    2. You are so right. Joe B seems to have drank the Kool aid completely. The Democrats should really have something to sell to “small town” people in Indiana. For starters, forced vaccination mandates, indoctrination for their kids, inflation, out of sight gas prices, a president that is so incompetent due to dementia that he has become a joke, the emasculation of our military, soon to be taxes without end and on and on and on.
      Yeah, we rubes out here should have an easy time buying that line of Bull…. oney.

    3. Yes, because the Democrats forced the following vaccines down their throats. I’m glad that the Republican Party has seen the light and wants to get rid of the following shots that everyone has gotten:

      Hepatitis B

      2 months of age
      DTaP – Diphtheria, Tetanus, Acellular Pertussis
      IVP – Inactivated Polio vaccine
      Hepatitis B
      Pneumococcal vaccine
      HIB – Haemophilus influenza Type B
      Rotavirus vaccine

      4 months of age
      Pneumococcal vaccine
      Rotavirus vaccine

      6 months of age
      Hepatitis B
      Pneumococcal vaccine
      Influenza vaccine**
      Rotavirus vaccine
      12 months of age
      MMR – Measles, Mumps, Rubella
      Pneumococcal vaccine
      Hepatitis A

      15 months of age

      18 months of age
      Hepatitis A

      4 to 6 years of age

      11 years of age to adult
      Meningococcal vaccine
      HPV (human papilloma vaccine)

    4. The only Kool Aid that’s been drunk is by today’s “Republicans”. They are Republicans in Name Only. Their party is a Trump cult and all those who refuse to bow down, the Cheney’s and Kinzinger’s and Gonzalez’s, are punished. It’s the party of MTG and Gohmert and Gaetz and Jordan and Cotton, all of whom make AOC look like nothing on the crazy scale.

  1. As you can see from Chuck, Neil, and Michael’s comments, this is unlikely to do anything. The MAGA people are so indoctrinated by right-wing media that they’ll continue to vote against their own self interests for the foreseeable future. They think teaching about slavery and Jim Crow is CRT. They don’t believe there was an insurrection lead by a mob of Trump supporters on 1/6 despite hundreds of videos. They think Covid-19 and the vaccines are a hoax despite 700,000+ dead Americans, most of whom were unvaccinated. It’s sad what right-wing media and Facebook are doing to this country. MAGA has turned into a radical cult movement that is inching our country closer to the civil war they want.

    1. Pay attention, Wesley: The second Civil War has been underway since the late 1960s…it’s just becoming more obvious. The seeds planted by LBJ’s Great Society and nurtured by hateful racist culture warriors like Obama and outright dopey puppets like Biden are bearing the logical fruit of such folly; disrespect for not only the culture’s traditional values, but overt ignorance of unchanging human nature. That’s quite a bit for you to unwrap, but should give you enough to chew on for the afternoon.

    2. The existence of today’s Republican Party is a threat to the continuance of the United States of America. You can thank Mark Zuckerberg and Rupert Murdoch for some percentage of the current state of affairs.

    3. Yes, Bob, history repeats itself.

      The civil war brought about a period of equality, followed by the backlash of Jim Crow laws from those who could not handle equality.

      The Jim Crow laws finally went away, followed by a period of equality where a black man was elected President. We are living in the backlash to the election of Obama from the racists who cannot handle equality, led by a man who rose to prominence by refusing to accept that black man as President.

      What side of history do you want to be on? Answer carefully.

    4. What’s sad Wesley is that we are so polarized and opposite that we don’t have any middle ground to discuss things. I look at your side and think how can you go that far left and you look at mine and say how could anyone go so far right. I think if you looked closer you’d find a whole lot of us that are not as far right as you portray us, but of course that’s not media worthy so we each watch our own channels and hate the other side because we can’t believe people would really think like that. The right is acting no different than the left did when Republicans controlled the ballgame. We all want to be heard and understood, right. Absolute power is bad for society, but in this climate you get nothing done when that power is shared so each side becomes a dictator when it’s their turn. You should really be enjoying this huge turn to the left. You’re in charge. Enjoy it.

    5. What “huge turn to the left”?

      What court-packing have the Democrats accomplished? What massive bill have Democrats gotten through? A reminder what is proposed, and not yet law, has been cut in half from what was originally proposed?

      Democrats haven’t accomplished anything other than taking the blame for everything that’s ever happened. I am pretty sure Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden were also to blame for whatever the heck Carson Wentz was thinking yesterday.

      This is what is maddening about having to support Democrats because they’re the last remaining party that actually believes in democracy. Their messaging is awful, and they rarely accomplish much of anything due to how broad their coalition is. Republicans are much more focused on tax cuts for the rich and giving the religious right what they want, because if those two factions split, they are sunk. And Republicans still have to do everything they can to restrict voter turnout, because they know demographically they’re done. Their best option for “winning” the 2024 election is to cheat by not letting states submit electors and sending the election to Congress. This is all happening in plain sight and the Democrats aren’t doing anything about it.

      I mean, we have to count on Democrats to prosecute those responsible for the coup attempt on January 6th. How’s that going for America?

  2. You’re welcome to point out some facts where I’m wrong … or you can just call me names.

    It’s painful to watch the Republican Party devolve into what it is now and if you’re going to make me suffer by making the Democratic Party the best option to save America (and boy, are we hosed as they ignore how the Republicans will rig the next two elections), then I’m going to continue to point out the reality of the situation for y’all who don’t get out much from your Facebook and Fox News bubbles. Maybe the repetition will break on through to the other side for a couple of you and make it worth my time.