If you want another metric to gauge the significance of the turnout, you can look at the results of three uncontested races in Allen County. This is the first time any countywide candidates have ever registered over 100,000 votes. Allen County Coroner Jon Brandenberger, Surveyor Al Frisinger and Commissioner F. Nelson Peters all topped 100K.
Precinct by precinct results are not yet in hand. However, some conclusions may be drawn from overall county data.
First is that the Republican victory here and the narrow margins of victory for Greg Zoeller and Tony Bennett statewide owe a great deal to the field work by the Mitch Daniels campaign. The Victory Center office locally headed by the tireless Ab Crosby provided a big foundation for Republican GOTV efforts. Democratic efforts were bolstered by the Obama campaign's use of outside volunteers - largely from Illinois.
Second is that the national Democrats showed that when there are resources poured into Indiana one finally begins to see that Indiana is a much more closely divided state between Democrats and Republicans than the long string of Republican presidential victories since 1964 would suggest. I made that point to Obama northeast Indiana primary coordinator Chris Farrell before the May election. Since 1964, Democrats have chosen to concentrate limited resources in other battleground states. This year, there weren't limited resources and it allowed the Obama national campaign to be adventurous in taking the offensive to states where the McCain was forced to play defense.
The Obama campaign is set up very differently from most other campaigns. It pushed decision making authority toward the grassroots and, most importantly, it was learning organization. That tough Indiana Democratic presidential primary provided a framework that John McCain's easy win did not.
Since we mentioned the luxury the Democrats had of more extensive financial resources, FWOb now turns to a race where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee decided to indulge itself for the first time by putting serious expenditures in the Third Congressional District.
That would be the Souder/Montagano/Larsen congressional race. It wasn't even close.
Part of the explanation is that presidential election years mean that, traditionally, there is absolute vote advantage for Republicans that is hard to overcome. That is, even a close percentage race in a presidential election year means that the number of real votes needed to close that percentage gap is greater than faced by a Democrat with a wider percentage gap in an off-year election with a lower turnout.
From just a glance at the overall county results it would appear that Mike Montagano had a sizeable drop-off in Democrat voters who didn't cast a vote in the race. Mark Souder did not appear to have the sizeable drop-off in Republican voters that some Democratic privately predicted.
Mr. Montagano's strategy - which could largely be summed up as "I'm not Mark Souder" - didn't work. Ultimately, that was something of a passive strategy on the issues. That was the part of his strategy aimed at garnering the votes of people which would not normally be considered part of his base. A winning Democrat in the Third needs some of those voters; he didn't get them.
Mr. Montagano also did the extraordinary thing of chasing some of his own Democratic voters away during the campaign. His "I'm not a typical Democrat" ad turned off some regular Democrats he needed for his base.
As for conservatives or others who are in the ABS - Anybody but Souder - category, they had other choices from voting for William Larsen to withholding their vote in the Congressional race. Mr. Larsen's better than expected vote total is some evidence of that.
While Mr. Montagano seemed to be counting on an "I'm not" strategy he didn't ever truly establish the "I am" part of his campaign. His choice not to respond to the candidate vetting process of the two Fort Wayne newspapers meant that he didn't even get the Journal Gazette's endorsement. His website was a little sparse on the issues. *
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ads which did run were clumsy. When FWOb first broke the story that the DCCC made a big media buy, our post linked to the DCCC website showing the negative ads the DCCC ran in other Congressional districts around the country. Those ads gave a foretaste of what the DCCC ran on Mike Montagano's behalf. Once the ads started running on Fort Wayne television, the DCCC ads were in character.
The Souder ads were, as usual, focused on his opponent. The Republican Congressional Campaign Committee ads were also in character in attacking Mr. Montagano. However, in the final week, they were lighter in tone than the DCCC ad.
All in all, though, Allen County television viewers probably would have appreciated seeing more positive ads from both candidates.
The northeastern Indiana Republican base was energized in the last three weeks. Those voters know that US Representative Souder will be a seasoned congressman in dealing with a Nancy Pelosi led majority.
As for the DCCC, they will be in the position of defending seats in the next mid-year election.
* See comment of Leo Morris, Editorial Editor of the News-Sentinel - "FYI, he did finally come to see our editorial board, though he made the appointment the week after we had finished all the other interviews and didn't provide us with any more specific answers than he did in his TV ads. "