TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana’s 8th Congressional District is getting national attention.
Democrats in Washington are targeting the district to try to return it to the Democratic Party after November’s general election.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has placed the 8th District on its “Red to Blue” list, making it one of about 49 House races being targeted with funds and other support from the party’s political action committee on Capitol Hill.
“They obviously believe the 8th District is in play,” said Dave Crooks, the Democratic primary candidate widely expected to be the party’s nominee after the May 8 Indiana Primary Election.
According to the Federal Election Commission, Crooks’ campaign had raised about $522,000 through the end of March. That’s less than the approximately $635,000 raised by incumbent Republican Rep. Larry Bucshon.
However, Crooks notes he outraised Bucshon in the first quarter of 2012 by a 2-to-1 margin.
“We’re being well-received wherever we go,” Crooks said Friday. “We have big [momentum], more than anyone in the state right now.”
Successful fundraising is one of the reasons the DCCC has added the 8th to its Red to Blue list, Crooks told the Tribune-Star. The designation is also the result of other considerations, such as the strength of his campaign staff and organization, he said.
“These candidates also demonstrate they are problem-solvers who will represent the American people’s priorities and protect the middle class,” said the DCCC in a news release announcing its Red to Blue list.
However, Bucshon, a first-term congressman, sees the DCCC endorsement for Crooks differently, as does his campaign.
“We welcome the DCCC in this race because it clearly demonstrates that Dr. Bucshon’s Democratic opponent has the support of big-government liberals in Washington and supports President Obama’s failed policies,” said Patrick Murphy, campaign manager for Bucshon, who was traveling Friday and unavailable for comment.
“Dr. Bucshon is generating considerable momentum and tremendous support because we have focused on running a very strong campaign in this primary, which focuses on grassroots,” Murphy said.
One possible advantage for Crooks is his lack of a serious primary opponent, allowing him to save most of his campaign war chest until after the primary. Democrats Thomas Barnett and William Bryk are candidates for the 8th District nomination, but neither has reported raising or spending any money.
Bucshon, on the other hand, is facing a tenacious primary challenge from Kristi Risk, an Owen County mother of four who narrowly lost to Bucshon in 2010 despite raising and spending much less money.
“We feel real strong,” Risk said Friday of her challenge to the incumbent. “I know how to make a dollar stretch. I feel very positive about what’s going on in our race.”
Risk said she also believes it’s a good sign for her campaign that the Democrats see Bucshon as vulnerable if he wins the May Primary. “I think [the DCCC] underestimates the people, though,” Risk added. “I really think they underestimate the voters.”
‘Likely’ win for GOP
While the DCCC believes the 8th District is “in play,” the non-partisan Cook Political Report places the district in the “likely” win column for Republicans in November.
David Wasserman, House editor for Cook, notes, among other things, the 8th District is 7 percentage points above the national average in Republican voters, based on presidential ballots cast.
“President Obama lost this district in 2008, and we expect him to be even more of a drag on Democrats’ chances in this district in 2012,” Wasserman said. “We’ve noticed more straight-ticket voting, more synchronicity, between the choice at the top of the ticket and congressional races,” he said. “There are pockets in the district where the president is deeply unpopular and voters aren’t ready to send a member of his party to Congress. That’s the main challenge Crooks would have to overcome.”
Crooks, meanwhile, rejects the predictions of the Cook Political Report.
“I’ve campaigned all around the district and I’ve yet to run into Charlie Cook,” Crooks said. “He’s obviously not done his homework on my record.” Based on his past elections to the Indiana House, where Crooks served from 1996 to 2008, the Democratic candidate said he can count on significant support from Republicans and independents.
Recently, Crooks noted he has been endorsed by the fiscally conservative “Blue Dog” coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats in the U.S. House, adding he will join the coalition if elected.
Since its founding in 1984, the Cook Political Report has about a 95-percent accuracy rate for races considered “likely” wins for either party in pre-Labor Day rankings, according to the organization’s website. However, it is still relatively early and several designations typically change after Labor Day, Wasserman said.
“By no means are we saying it’s impossible” for Democrats to win the 8th District in 2012, Wasserman said. “There are patterns that are fairly easy to see across the country,” he said. Even a “Blue Dog” Democrat needs an unpopular Republican president in office to win in the 8th, he said. “We think it’s unlikely Democrats will take back this district at this point.”
Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Democrats see area as being ‘in play’
TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana’s 8th Congressional District is getting national attention.
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