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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.

Ohio River Ramble

Jim VandeHei

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Jim VandeHei
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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.

By washingtonpost.com Editors  |  September 23, 2006; 3:26 PM ET
Categories:  House , Ohio River Ramble  
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Next: Video: Thoughts on Indiana's 9th District Race

Comments

I want to echo and amplify one of the criticisms of the writers for using the absurd phrase "family values" to describe what are right-wing and conservative values, and no more. In case you guys have been living under a rock, there are many families who value their gay brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles. And what, pray tell, does a constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning have to do with so-called family values? Washington Post writers should know better than this.

Posted by: Steve | September 25, 2006 7:36 PM | Report abuse

The following quote from your article is of concern: "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."

Was this an opinion formed before your visit or after? I believe that the voters in the 9th have realized that Baron Hill did a good job and he is needed back in Washington. Do you think that the voters in the 9th will just vote for the party?

Posted by: margaret | September 25, 2006 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Just another small correction- while the current high school gym holds 8-9,000 people, it was built in the early or mid 1970s, after Baron graduated from high school.

Too bad you only had a chance to go to Madison, the rest of the 9th is quite beautiful, inc. parts of Brown county.

Seymour grad in DC

Posted by: Hometown girl | September 25, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

washingtonpost.com Editors - thanks for settling the fuss over nothing. If it had been in the interest of historical accuracy, I wouldn't have minded it so much. The comments were such that any politician, or sports coach, could have them made numerous times.

Nice to know you read us. Thanks again.

Posted by: Nor'Easter | September 24, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

You really ought to put "family values" in quotation marks as that phrase is one of opinion, not fact. Like "partial-birth abortion".

Hill took Lee Hamilton's seat there when he retired in 1998, and always had tough races. I was surprised that he lost in 2004. I believe he was the only Democratic former athlete in Congress until his loss. Seymour, IN, where Hill played basketball, is also the hometown of John Melloncamp.

If anyone gives CC any trouble for the pink shirt, he can just say he lost a bet. ;) And if you guys get a chance to visit Indianapolis, you MUST try Shapiro's Deli at 808 S. Meridian St. (at McCarty St, Exit 79 off I-70). You'll never have a better reuben anywhere. Yes, that's right New Yorkers, I said the best reuben is to be found in INDIANA!! Anyone who's been there will agree. :)

Oh, the congressional race. Yes, Sodrel won't have presidential or gubernatorial coattails to ride this year. In fact, I just read an article in an Ohio newspaper noting that Gov. Daniels is so toxic in IN he's been campaigning for Ken Blackwell next door in OHIO! As Chuck Todd wrote, Indiana is very dangerous for Republicans this year. If Hill can't win this, Democrats probably can't retake the House.

http://sandwichrepair.blogspot.com

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | September 24, 2006 2:31 PM | Report abuse


DEAR EDITORS -- BLESS YOU.

Thank you very much for the correction. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that anyone at a newspaper listens to readers. It has been several years of darkness for Democrats, watching in fear and loathing as all our media--TV, radio, and finally, worst of all for those of us who care about facts, about truth, about reality -- even good newspapers fell to unmitigated right wing spin.

We watched as you credulously, gullibly, without questioning, reprinted Swiftboat attacks, baseless smears, distortations and complete fabrications about Democrats, about domestic and foreign policy. We watched while you cheerleaded us into a bloody endless war, giving credibility to governement propagandist while you eschewed 'trivial' things like fact-checking and journalistic responsibility.

YOU AT THE WAPO, and the NY Times, bear as much responsibility for the thousands and thousands of dead children in Iraq and the loss of our own young people there as anyone in this country.

I ask you now, in the next few months -- to take your responsibilities seriously. This is a critical election --IT IS NOT A GAME -- and the outcome of it may well determine whether we survive as a nation, whether we emerge with the values we once cherished intact -- or if what it means to be an American is forever lost.

I grew up in an Americas that did not torture, did not invade countries without provocation, did not spy on its own people [at least not as a matter of official policy]. I grew up in an America where the words 'freedom' and 'democracy' had actual meaning. Where we did not shiver in fear and soil ourselves over every imagined threat. We stood up for ourselves and fought for our values, but we did not act as cowardly bullies who attacked the weak, who tortured the imprisoned.

Now, we have an administration with a lust for unchecked power and global domination. If you and other media continue to allow them to lie and spin us into yet another war based on little else than greed, you may well be reponsible for allowing the global situation to spin utterly out of control, leading to a mass conflagration that will kill millions.

PLEASE TAKE YOUR RESPONSIBILITY SERIOUSLY, so that our children will have a future.

Remember--after 3000 dead American young people in IRAQ, remember who it was who said -- whose words will live in infamy:

"My answer is bring them on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."

None other than your swaggering, blustering, unqualified, incompetent rolling disaster of a republican president.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Jim VandeHei was referring to Sen. John Kerry's challenge to the Republican party during during the 2004 presidential race. Kerry said:

"I look forward to talking to real Americans about the real issues, and I'll tell you, we're ready. Bring it on."

The following article about Kerry's remarks were hyperlinked in the original post:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/01/27/elec04.prez.kerry/

In July of 2003 President Bush said, "bring them on" in reference to militants in Iraq who might want to attack American troops.

"There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there," the president said. "My answer is bring them on. We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation."

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2003-07-02-bush-iraq-troops_x.htm

Posted by: washingtonpost.com Editors | September 24, 2006 9:29 AM | Report abuse

The Ramble absolutely Rocks ! Despite some blog idiots getting rapped around the axle because over misspeaks, your coverage - especially video - is awesome. The major TV news networks should be calling about now wanting to hire Jim.
Thanks and Keep up the great analysis.

Posted by: Overseas Ohioan | September 24, 2006 5:52 AM | Report abuse

WHO SAID, BRING IT ON? CMON, I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT. JUST SAY IT OUT LOUD...

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2006 1:57 AM | Report abuse

CORRECT THE RECORD-- WHO SAID, BRING IT ON?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2006 1:54 AM | Report abuse

CORRECT THE RECORD, CHRIS, WHO SAID, BRING IT ON? IT WASN'T JOHN KERRY.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2006 1:45 AM | Report abuse


"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.''

IT WORKS, CHRIS, BECAUSE YOU MAKE IT WORK. BECAUSE YOU REINFORCE IT...BECAUSE YOU WANT IT TO WORK.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2006 1:43 AM | Report abuse

CHRIS, DID YOU HEAR ME? I ASKED YOU TO CORRECT THE RECORD. YOUR PRESIDENT WAS THE ONE WHO SAID, BRING IT ON. HE SAID IT TO INSURGENTS IN IRAQ AND THEY DID BRING IT ON AND NOW A LOT MORE OF OUR SOLDIERS ARE DEAD, MAYBE YOU FIND IT AMUSING. I DON'T.

CORRECT THE RECORD, PLEASE.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2006 12:25 AM | Report abuse

'(I bet we can type faster than Hill! In the words of the immortal John F. Kerry, "Bring it On!")'

EXCUSE ME, BUT WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU SAYING?

GEORGE BUSH WAS THE ONE WHO SAID, 'BRING IT ON', OKAY?

DO YOU HEAR ME CHRIS? IT WAS NOT JOHN KERRY.

CORRECT THE RECORD, OR YOU WILL BE HEARING FROM ME OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

CORRECT THE RECORD. I AM TIRED OF THIS CONSTANT HISTORICAL REVISIONISM. SOME OF US ARE PAYING ATTENTION.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2006 12:16 AM | Report abuse

Frankly, Chris... nice trip for you guys. But your republican spin is making me nauseous. Seriously.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2006 12:10 AM | Report abuse

'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.'

Your republican skirts are showing..

Posted by: Anonymous | September 24, 2006 12:07 AM | Report abuse

This seat has been held by an Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame
member for 40 of the last 42 years. Hoops is the fundamental Hoosier value, and Hill pulls away at the end.

http://www.hoopshall.com/inductees/1982/hamilton.html

Posted by: Top of the key | September 23, 2006 9:44 PM | Report abuse

Hey guys. I publisher of the Marietta Register, a newspaper in Marietta, OH, which, with luck, will be on your Day 7 stop. This is the heart of Wilson v Blasdel country. If you are in town I'd be glad to host if you're interested.

Posted by: Nate Wooley | September 23, 2006 8:53 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully the rain didn't wash you away while visiting.

If memory serves, Hill held a lead at the upper fringes of the margin of error in most polling last time around (in 2004). Sodrel won't have presidential coattails to ride this time around, but Hill won't have loads of Democrats Abroad absentees from college town Bloomington to help him either.

A recent DCCC attack ad running in the district accuses Sodrel of wanting to privatize Social Security. A pretty effective ad, but the Sodrel people have apparently come up with video (now on YouTube) showing Hill saying that he thinks that investing Social Security money into the stock market is a good idea.

Both sides have quickly plunged into negative ads while accusing their opponent of going negative first. The next few weeks won't be pretty.

http://hoosierpundit.blogspot.com

Posted by: Scott | September 23, 2006 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Very subtle, your rewriting of history.

We all know it was "immortal" Dubya who first made this now infamous quote "Bring it On."

I for one will be glad when this "Ramble" is over, much prefer the Friday line.

http://whathappenedtomycountry.blogspot.com

Posted by: Truth Hunter | September 23, 2006 5:14 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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