Tuesday, January 12, 2010

the 9th District Republican primary: an overview

The 9th District general election might be more exciting this year-- after Baron Hill's blow-out victory over Mike Sodrel (and yours truly) in 2008. But it seems like we're guaranteed that the Republican primary will be interesting!

Here are the three announced candidates (with no others on the horizon)-- with my assessment of their candidacy and the manner in which they would represent us.

First, their positions:

Mike Sodrel:

The former congressman has always expressed a passion for fiscal conservatism. Unfortunately, like many in the national Republican party, the results were far from ideal. The anti-tax stuff was good; the spending...not so much. Serving in the minority party if he wins (unless the GOP takes back the House)-- and at least in opposition to President Obama-- Sodrel would almost certainly vote more conservatively this time.

On foreign policy, he embraces the "conservative interventionist" position. As I have written and campaigned, I think this position is wrong-headed (in that it misses the "Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism") and ironic (given its faith in the efficacy of broad government intervention).

On abortion, he is strongly pro-life.

The other candidates do not have a voting record, so we have to weigh the credibility of their stated positions. That's part of why it was so fun for me to run against Hill and Sodrel-- two candidates who had to run on their voting records!

Todd Young:

Young's top issue seems to be fiscal conservatism. In my talks with him, he seems credible here. He does not make any specific proposals on his website, but seems philosophically sound and passionate about the issue.

On foreign policy, Young also embraces the "conservative interventionist" position. But I'm not sure how he compares to Sodrel in terms of the specifics.

On abortion, there is no mention on his website. He has told me that he is pro-life, but the omission from the website seems to indicate, at the least, less interest/passion in the topic. He would probably be a reliable pro-life vote, but would be unlikely to provide any leadership on the issue.

Travis Hankins:

Fiscal conservatism may be Hankins' top issue as well. It's certainly important to him. He seems quite credible and speaks eloquently on this topic-- and has the merit of a specific proposal: reducing government to its size in 2002.

On foreign policy, Hankins holds the "conservative non-interventionist" position. Some Democrats embrace non-intervention as a militarily weak position. From his website, he clearly wants a strong national defense, but far less in terms of our military adventures overseas.

On abortion, Hankins is strongly pro-life. In terms of policy positions, he would be equivalent to Sodrel, but might provide more leadership and a more passionate voice on the issue.

Second, their candidacies:

Sodrel has both significant advantanges and perhaps prohibitive baggage. He has tremendous name recognition and will be able to raise significant funds quickly. But primary voters may have grown tired of his repeated attempts, cynical of his motives, and/or pessimistic of his chances to defeat Baron in November.

Young has been active on the trail since early in the cycle and has raised decent cash. I wonder how his reticence on social issues will play among Republicans in the 9th District. Some bloggers have talked disparagingly about his Indy connections, but I don't know how strongly that plays with average (primary) voters.

Hankins has raised less money, but has been at least as active, working to establish a strong grass-roots campaign. This is precisely the sort of effort that has been successful in the 9th previously (see: Michael Bailey over Kevin Kellems in 2000)-- and might be especially effective in a year like 2010, when incumbents/insiders are increasingly out of favor. Hankins is eloquent and passionate-- the most interesting speaker of the three.

To this last point, it'd be interesting to see these three debate a few times! Given Sodrel's willingness as an incumbent-- and more generally, his passion-- to debate Baron Hill, I would expect/hope that he'll be open to debate those in his own party.

One last thing: Does Sodrel's entry help Young or Hankins moreso? On the one hand, Sodrel divides the establishment vote (at least somewhat). On the other hand, Sodrel divides the segment of voters who are most interested in social conservatism.

As a bit of a political junkie, I look forward to seeing the primary unfold. Young is a solid, primary challenger/opponent. The nature of Hankins' campaign is that he will tend to be underestimated, but he could easily catch fire and win. But Sodrel-- and primary voters' decisions about him-- is probably the biggest wild-card. How many of them will move to him reflexively and how many will reject him out of hand?


At January 14, 2010 at 7:41 AM , Blogger Bill Starr said...

Good analysis, Eric. Glad to hear you're planning to be campaign manager for Travis Hankins. Good combination. Are you thinking of taking the "Schansberg for Congress" links out of your background for now?

Regards, Bill Starr
Columbus, Indiana
Thu, 14 Jan 2010, 7:41 am EST

At January 14, 2010 at 4:51 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Thanks Bill!

Nah, I'll leave them up there as a souvenir-- and an encouragement to other candidates to stay on the straight and narrow! ;-)


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