As Goes Terre Haute, So Goes the Presidential Race?

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Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) -- There was never much doubt who was going to win Indiana tonight: Mitt Romney has taken the state back from President Barack Obama fairly easily. But we can still learn something from the returns in this early-closing state.

The best microcosm may be Vigo County, on the Illinois border, west of Indianapolis. Since 1888, the residents of the county seat, Terre Haute, have sided with the presidential winner in all but two races. In 2008, Obama won the county by nearly 16 percent over John McCain, more than two and a half times the cushion George W. Bush had over John Kerry in 2004.

Tonight, with 92 percent of precincts reporting, Obama is up on Romney by a slender 2 percentage points. (Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, the darling of Reason magazine and bugbear of my colleague Josh Barro, is playing spoiler with 2 percent.) Equally interesting is the Senate race, which has Democrat Joe Donnelly up big on Republican Richard Mourdock, 58 percent to 36 percent.

What to make of it? It’s a bad omen for Mourdock, who was a sure thing until he made comments about pregnancy caused by rape being something “God intended to happen.” Indiana Republicans might have buyers’ remorse after choosing Mourdock over longtime incumbent Dick Lugar in the primaries.

As for Obama and Romney, we’ve got more than 10,000 votes yet to be counted before one can know that history is on his side.

(Tobin Harshaw writes editorials on national security and education for Bloomberg View. Follow him on Twitter.)

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