April 15, 2012

Why can’t our state be heard?

by Kelly Hawes

— I was disappointed last week when Rick Santorum announced he was suspending his presidential campaign.

I wasn’t necessarily going to vote for him. I just wanted him to stay in the race.

In fact, I wanted all the presidential candidates to stay in the race. It might have been interesting to have a half dozen or more candidates still in the running.

Even two, though, would have been nice.

I was thrilled four years ago when Indiana found itself at the center of a spirited Democratic primary battle between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

We actually had both candidates visiting our state. Clinton’s husband, Bill, the former president, actually came to Logansport.

Our own mayor issued an endorsement. The national news media was actually paying attention to how folks around here might vote.

Indiana mattered in a presidential primary for the first time in decades.

I was thrilled when it looked like that might happen again, this time in the Republican primary.

I was looking forward to a campaign appearance by Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney.

Maybe one of them would actually deliver a major policy speech right here in our hometown.

It would have been fun. Maybe even a little bit exciting. And it ought to be.

There is no reason that Indiana should be an after-thought every four years when the major parties choose their presidential candidates.

Hoosiers should not be forced to watch as voters in other states sift through the candidates and narrow the choices to the point where what the folks in Indiana think no longer matters.

Todd Rokita, the current 4th District congressman, had a plan when he was secretary of state that would have given more states a voice in the process. At least occasionally, Indiana would have cast ballots early enough to play a role in the selection process. That’s a plan that should be revisited.

I understand that the Indiana General Assembly doesn’t want to move the primary election. We’re used to having it on the first

Tuesday after the first Monday in January, and we don’t want to move it to February or March just so that we can have a say in the selection of a presidential candidate.

The Legislature is in session at that time of year, and the lawmakers don’t want to be distracted from the important business at hand with a possible primary election campaign.

No problem.

Don’t move the primary. Let’s just have a contest for the presidential candidates, and let’s do it at least by March, early enough that the election won’t have been decided.

Just for the record, the nominee actually hasn’t been selected. Mitt Romney has fewer than 700 delegates. He needs 1,144.

The problem is that Santorum, his closest competitor, has fewer than 400 delegates. Prognosticators say he would have to land 78 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination. He’s not beaten yet, they say, but the result is inevitable.

Maybe so.

Still, it will be interesting to see how many delegates Santorum and the other candidates manage to accumulate between now and the Republican National Convention.

Slightly more than a week ago, Santorum’s campaign was still talking as if victory might be possible. Staffers liked their chances in states like Indiana, North Carolina and Texas.

It’ll be interesting to see how many votes Santorum comes up with in those states now that he’s suspended his campaign.

• Kelly Hawes is managing editor of the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5155 or