Indiana's 9th: Democrat Talks Family Values ... And Basketball
MADISON, Ind. -- Your intrepid reporting team is in the heart of God's country, a quick drive away from the raging Ohio River and only minutes removed from a fine feast of fried fish, fries and hush puppies at the local art fair.
We have braved floods (almost five inches of rain in Louisville last night), cancelled events (blame it on the rain) and an overcrowded Madison coffee shop all in our quest to meet the Democratic candidate for Indiana's 9th District seat, former congressman Baron Hill. Hill is looking for a do-over, the kind that was not allow on the basketball courts he dominated in these parts decades ago.
(This has nothing to do with the trip or this posting, but Mr. Fix himself, Chris Cillizza, is wearing pink IN RURAL INDIANA.)
Hill lost his seat by 1,500 votes in 2004, mostly, he said, because the conservative voters here were ticked off at Democrats, while other voters thought he had no chance of losing. The latter were obviously wrong.
Hill walked into the coffee shop today and shook every hand in the room, often pleading with them "to vote for me" in a booming voice that sounded like it runs off an amplifier. This is one fit guy. The Fix tells me that about five years ago in a charity road race back in Washington, Hill blew by him like lightning, humbling Cillizza until he later learned the ex-congressman holds the state record in the 100-yard dash.
(I bet we can type faster than Hill! In the words of the immortal John F. Kerry, "Bring it On!")
If Hill loses again -- he is running against GOP Rep. Mike Sodrel -- it will be because conservative voters in the district are still ticked off at Democrats.
"I have to sharpen my image when it comes to values," he told your ramblers in a lively interview at the coffee shop.
Hill campaigns as a social conservative, opposed to abortion, gun control and gay marriage. But his voting record from his previous stint in Congress offers Republicans opportunities to question his family values. Hill opposed constitutional amendments to outlaw gay marriage and flag-burning, a point the GOP makes relentlessly on the local airwaves. Hill said he opposes gay marriage and flag burning but does not think the issues rise to the level of amending the Constitution.
The Hill strategy is to emphasize his faith and family values, and talk basketball as often as possible to show his distinctly Indiana upbringing. He was a star at Seymor High School and remains a well-known part of Hoosier basketball lore. It might just work. Hill's polling shows him leading by about five points, which squares with public polling in the district.
The Republican plan is two-fold: Question Hill's social conservatism and accuse him of voting against tax cuts, which he did. Hill voted for a number of tax cuts too, but that is not the message voters are hearing in the latest ad by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
"When it comes to helping families liberal Baron Hill is out of touch with Indiana families," the ad concludes.
There is a reason you see this message every campaign and almost every competitive race in the region -- it works.
Your ramblers are now venturing back into the rain, and then back to Kentucky.
September 23, 2006; 3:26 PM ET
Categories: House , Ohio River Ramble
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