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Political Junkie Looks Back at Strange Moments in Indiana Primary History

Ken Rudin
Political Junkie

Indiana’s primary comes late in an election season and typically doesn't play a consequential role in nominating presidents.

However, Hoosier voters were pivotal this year. Republican Ted Cruz dropped his presidential bid after losing Indiana.  And Democrat Bernie Sanders bought his campaign more time with his defeat of frontrunner Hillary Clinton.


Earlier this week Ken Rudin, host of the Political Junkie Podcast and former NPR political editor, spoke with WBOI’s Katy Anderson about other strange moments in Indiana primary history.



On the 1964 Indiana Democratic Primary:

"Lyndon Johnson was running for second term that year but he refused to run in the primaries [where] he had stand-ins for him... Matthew Welsh was the Democratic governor of Indiana [in 1964] and he ran as a stand-in for Lyndon Johnson facing George Wallace... Indiana, like Wisconsin and like Maryland as well, those were states where George Wallace tried to make a strong stand on his views about race and open housing and things like that. And Indiana was one of those states that made sure that George Wallace was not going to win that primary."


 On the 1968 Indiana Democratic Primary:

"[Indiana] was Bobby Kennedy's first victory [in the Democratic primaries]. He had jumped in the race in 1968 shortly after the New Hampshire primary. He beat not only Eugene McCarthy but Roger Branigin who was running as a stand-in for President Johnson in 1968."


On Reagan's success in Indiana:

"Ronald Reagan defeated President Ford in the 1976 primary. [Reagan] had strong Conservative support there. While Reagan didn't win the nomination in '76, it did give him a big boost to ultimately winning the nomination and presidency in 1980."

On the parallels between the past and present primaries:

"Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump said 'the bosses' are trying to defeat them, and there's some truth to that. Back in '68, President Johnson ran the convention and gave the nomination to his vice president Hubert Humphrey. It was kind of a boss-controlled... it wasn't really a 'small d' democratic convention. The primaries didn't really matter that much. It was a foregone conclusion basically that Hubert Humphrey was going to get the nomination. Now, Bernie Sanders is saying the Democratic establishment was for Hillary Clinton from the beginning. And there is truth to that, but the point is she won more states, more votes, and got more delegates, and to me that's how you win a nomination. Now, Donald Trump is complaining about the establishment trying to stop him - and that's true, they have been - but they haven't been succeeding. So, for all the complaints about the bosses who are running the Republican Party, right now Donald Trump is doing pretty fine, thank you very much."

You can hear the Political Junkie with Ken Rudin every Thursday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered on 89.1 WBOI.