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Updated Oct. 14, 2010
Given the Republican leanings of this district, the national environment and the strength of Republican nominee Larry Bucshon, state Rep. Trent Van Haaften does not appear well-positioned to hold this seat for Democrats.
The National Republican Congressional Committee had named Bucshon to the lowest tier of its Young Guns program prior to his primary win, and the committee has since promoted him to the top tier. A parade of national and state Republican officials have campaigned with the doctor since then, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), Gov. Mitch Daniels and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.).
Van Haaften has tried to distance himself from his political experience, not mentioning his six years in the state House. With Ellsworth's help he got the endorsement of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition. Both Bucshon and Van Haaften said they would have opposed the new health care law.
Polling has suggested that Ellsworth isn't even likely to win his home district in the Senate race, which is another factor that does not bode well for Democrats holding his House seat.
District Profile from Politics in America
Indiana's southwest corner, formed by the converging Wabash and Ohio rivers, is home to the 8th, a district characterized by laborers and social conservatives. Evansville, an Ohio River port and the state's third-largest city, is southern Indiana's industrial center. It is located in Democratic-leaning Vanderburgh County, the district's most populous, and is home to the 8th's only substantial minority and liberal populations.
North of Evansville, the 8th takes on a more rural and culturally conservative flavor. Gibson and Knox counties are among Indiana's top corn-producing areas. This region also grows soybeans, wheat and various fruits and vegetables. Daviess County has a large Amish population.
Terre Haute, farther north in generally Democratic Vigo County, is the district's other manufacturing center. Terre Haute provides some Democratic votes from Indiana State University's faculty and students, and Evansville is home to Southern Indiana and Evansville universities. Having refurbished its downtown, Evansville is trying to establish tourism revenue, and the Casino Aztar is docked on the Ohio River.
The district's manufacturing base and history as a mining center long gave Democrats an edge. Cultural issues moved the district to the right, but the two parties can split local elections. McCain won 51 percent of the 8th's 2008 presidential vote overall and took his second-highest percentage in the state in Daviess County.
Manufacturing, agriculture, higher education
Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, 26 military, 4,000 civilian (2009)
Evansville, 117,429; Terre Haute, 60,785
Vincennes is the oldest city in Indiana.
|2010||general||Larry Bucshon (R)||117,259||57.5%|
|Trent Van Haaften (D)||76,265||37.4%|
|John Cunningham (LIBERT)||10,240||5%|
|2008||general||Brad Ellsworth (D)||188,693||64.7%|
|Greg Goode (R)||102,769||35.3%|
|2006||general||Brad Ellsworth (D)||131,019||61%|
|John Hostettler (R)||83,704||39%|
|2004||general||John Hostettler (R)||145,576||53.4%|
|Jon Jennings (D)||121,522||44.6%|
|Mark Garvin (LIBERT)||5,680||2.1%|
|2002||general||John Hostettler (R)||98,952||51.3%|
|Bryan Hartke (D)||88,763||46%|
|Pam Williams (LIBERT)||5,150||2.7%|
|2008||Barack Obama: 47%||John McCain: 51%|
|2004||John Kerry: 38%||George W. Bush: 62%|
|2000||Al Gore: 42%||George W. Bush: 57%|