Presidential 2016: Since When Did the Indiana Primary Matter So Much?

The following post was written by Juanita Tolliver, Manager at America Forward.

Indiana is not a state that typically jumps out as a crucial battleground primary state, but today the Hoosier State takes the mainstage. After a whirlwind week that included the creation of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) & Governor John Kasich’s (R-OH) delegate tag team, the announcement of Carly Fiorina (R) as Senator Cruz’s running-mate, Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) decision to lay off hundreds of campaign staffers, and the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, Indiana, believe it or not, draws the nation’s attention as a breaking point in the primary, and as a high stakes contest in the delegate race for both Republican and Democratic candidates.

On the Republican side, Indiana will serve as the first test for the fragile alliance that Senator Cruz and Governor Kasich have created that resembles a divide and conquer approach in the race for delegates in Indiana, New Mexico, and Oregon in which each candidate will focus his attention on the states where he has a comparative advantage. Gov. Kasich is not actively campaigning in Indiana, and Senator Cruz is not actively campaigning in New Mexico or Oregon.

As Indiana has 57 delegates at stake in its winner-takes-most Republican primary today, this alliance aims to force a contested Republican convention in July, as well as provide a meaningful boost to the Cruz campaign in the lead up to the California winner take most primary in June, which hasn’t been considered a battleground state in the primary for the past 50+ years. If Trump wins Indiana today, his position as the presumptive Republican nominee will be solidified as his pledged delegate total will be 1,053, just 184 delegates from the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination outright. Conversely, if Cruz is able to leverage his recent endorsement from Governor Mike Pence to overcome Trump’s double digit polling lead and survive Indiana, his campaign will be rejuvenated as he switches gears to focus on delegate rich California.

On the Democratic side, Senator Sanders’ recent decision to downsize his campaign team by more than 250 staffers, as well as his campaign’s sharp decline in fundraising in April, reflects a winding down of the Democratic primary that could be reversed, or perpetuated, based on the outcomes of the proportional distribution of Indiana’s 92 delegates today. If Secretary Hillary Clinton (D) is able to win majority of the delegates from the Hoosier state, she will extend her current delegate count of 2,183, far outpacing Senator Sanders’ 1,406 delegates.

However, Senator Sanders has repeatedly pointed out that with pledged delegates alone, Secretary Clinton only has a smaller, surmountable lead with 1,663 pledged delegates to his 1,367 pledged delegates. Now this is where the math gets sticky. Considering that Secretary Clinton has the support of 520 super delegates, elected officials and party leaders who serve as unpledged delegates and who vote during the Democratic convention in July, in addition to the 1,663 pledged delegates she has won in primary contests and caucuses thus far, she will not win the Democratic nomination outright until she earns 720 additional pledged delegates. The proportional distribution of delegates on all democratic contests means that Senator Sanders need to win each of the remaining primary contests with overwhelming margins to have any chance of catching Secretary Clinton in pledged delegates.

If you can’t tell, we’ve been following the 2016 election closely at America Forward, and lifting up the community-driven solutions that our Coalition of 70+ social innovators are deploying across the country as proof points and scalable solutions to the nation’s biggest challenges. By injecting Social Innovation into the dialogue surrounding the 2016 election, we’re emphasizing the invaluable role that social innovators play as the fiber of local communities, as a resource and partner to government and businesses, and as the creators of pathways to opportunity for Americans. Our Coalition members drive progress in education, youth development, workforce development, poverty alleviation, criminal justice, and government efficiency and touch nearly 8 million lives every year in more than 14,500 communities every day.

We are a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs. Even in moments of political discourse and divisive rhetoric, we can find common ground and move forward together to address critical challenges and unleash the unlimited potential of individuals. Our advocacy work during the 2016 presidential election includes engagement with the candidates and their senior policy staffers in briefings and in-depth policy discussions, site visits with coalition members, rope lines at rallies, and strategic communications – like this recent piece with the 74 Million and our presidential blog series.

Our message to the next President is simple: America Forward and its Social Innovators are ready and waiting to work with you to tap into, and scale, the best solutions out there in order to make government and policy more responsive and reflective of the local solutions that we’re seeing in communities across the nation.

Join the conversation! Follow @America_Forward, and tell us about innovative solutions that work in your community using #AFPresidential16. For more information about America Forward’s presidential efforts and to read about our policy ideas and priorities outlined our briefing book, Moving America Forward: Innovators Lead the Way to Unlocking America’s Potential, visit

Previous Article STATE OF PLAY: PAY FOR SUCCESS AND EVIDENCE-BASED POLICY May 3, 2016 < Next Article Presidential 2016: Leveraging Data in Preschool to Erase the Achievement Gap Makes Perfect Sense May 3, 2016 >

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.