Democrats eye Obama's chances in Indiana

Mitt Romney (R)
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Updated: .

Recent gaffes by Mitt Romney have some Hoosier Democrats thinking there may be a way to get Indiana back in play for the president.

It wouldn't be easy. In a presidential poll back in March, Mitt Romney had a nine-percent lead over President Obama in Indiana.

In an August poll, Romney increased his lead in Indiana to 16 points, but Democratic leaders now say the president has significantly closed the gap since then, helped in part by a string of missteps by Romney.

"There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. They believe they are victims and the government has a responsibility to care for them; who believe they are entitled to health care to food, to houses. You name it. It's an entitlement and government should give it to them and they will vote for the president no matter what," Romney told a group of supporters at a private fundraiser. He did not know a camera was rolling.

The video was uncovered by a Democratic opposition researcher named Jimmy Carter IV. The 35-year-old says it's pushback for Romney's relentless campaign trail mockery of his grandfather.

On the street, reaction splits both ways.

"Does not affect my opinion and I believe it's true," said Dodd Devaney, Indiana voter. "I like it when people don't use a lot of political rhetoric and tell the truth. I wish more politicians would do that."

William Perry, another Indiana voter, says it's easy for Romney to say that "when you are worth $150 million. We're in tough economic times. We've been there for the last three years."

President Obama carried Indiana four years ago, but that was after an extensive primary battle with Hillary Clinton that laid the foundation for his push in the fall. Fast forward to 2012. Indiana is not a tipping point, so the president has minimal presence in the state.

Still, if the Romney campaign gaffes continue, "I think it's going to be closer," said Dan Parker, State Democratic Party chairman.

Parker says internal numbers show the president trailing by six percent in Indiana.

"You actually feel if he would spend money here, he could win here. If he would invest money here he could be very successful here," said Parker.

Campaign stops could make up the gap for Obama. That strategy paid off in 2008, when he won the state by a one-percent margin - to the surprise of just about everybody.

Parker bases that in part on the president's support for the automobile manufacturing industry and people like Victor Zadala.

"I work for the automobile industry as well. I am an employee. I think he has done a great job in saving the automobile industry," Zadala said.

"This election will not be decided on one day media-proclaimed gaffe from either candidate, quite frankly," said Eric Holcomb, State Republican Party chairman.

Holcomb says the election will turn on the president's record on jobs, on poverty and on gas prices.

"We are not taking anything for granted, obviously. The Republican party, we are not going to be fooled twice. President Obama was able to sell his message in 2008 but that rhetoric is not going to jive with the results of his first three and a half years in office," Holcomb said.

That could well depend on how many more campaign surprises are still out there.

In the last week before Election Day in 2008, Obama led in only one of five polls. The WTHR Indianapolis Star poll had him with a one-point lead over Republican John McCain. The last poll taken just days before the election shows McCain with a five-point lead in Indiana. Obama went on to win the state by a one-percent margin - the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the Hoosier state since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

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