By Max Jones
TERRE HAUTE — Even the most hardened cynic has to admit that Terre Haute is living a charmed life this election year.
For the fifth time since spring, the community will be visited by a major political figure in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes. The event will occur later today when Democratic Party nominee Sen. Barack Obama makes a 12:30 p.m. campaign stop at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.
For Obama, today is his second trip to the city. He spoke to a large and enthusiastic audience in April at Terre Haute North Vigo High School’s gymnasium. That’s when he was engaged with Sen. Hillary Clinton in a heated Indiana Democratic primary battle.
Clinton won Vigo County handily (and the state by a narrow margin). But no Democrat presidential candidate has won Indiana’s electoral votes since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. That Obama would return here indicates he still considers Indiana winnable and sees west-central Indiana and its media market as valuable territory to mine for votes.
Remember, George W. Bush won locally in 2000 and 2004, keeping alive Vigo County’s uncanny record of voting for the eventual presidential winner during the past 100-plus years. Only once, in 1952, did Vigo County’s vote not match the national result. That year, Democrat Adlai Stevenson of Illinois narrowly defeated Dwight Eisenhower here.
This year’s election promises to be close — locally and nationally. It will be oh-so-interesting to see which candidate this county supports, and whether its presidential election record is extended or suffers a blemish.
Having so much attention given our county by Obama the past six months will undoubtedly have some impact on local results. Unless McCain himself shows up here — which is highly unlikely — Obama’s visits might be enough to carry the county.
McCain runningmate Sarah Palin might fare as well here as he would if she made a scheduled campaign stop. Judging by comments and observations by local observers, Palin’s making quite a favorable impression.
Instinct tells me Obama’s visit here will the last this year by a presidential or vice presidential candidate. History shows Indiana should be safe turf for the GOP. If McCain or Palin have to begin spending time in the Hoosier state to keep it in their win column, then the GOP ticket is probably in trouble nationally.