Democrats find campaigning rough in conservative Indiana

Indiana, although virtually ignored by the candidates in tomorrow's primary, is still the land of hardball politics. Democratic candidates always step lightly in this Republican stronghold, but political ideology is not the only source of tension. Jesse Jackson's campaign has had some problems from within the state Democratic Party itself.

``Indiana is going to go for whoever the Republicans nominate at the presidential level. You can usually predict [Indiana] first of any state in the union,'' says William Shafer, a professor of political science at Purdue University. ``I don't think any Democratic candidate would be that much of a threat.''

The campaign of Gov. Michael Dukakis was well aware that Indiana is a Republican state. But as his workers started their grass-roots organizing, they say they were met with some of the most hostile responses they have encountered. They knew it would be tough - Indiana has been in Republican hands for 20 years - but no one expected the rude and sharply negative reception they received.

``One man said to me, `Don't soil my hands,''' says Dukakis organizer Jacki Cramer, as she was handing out literature. ``I've been in Republican states before, but it hasn't been so aggressive. ... Face-to-face contact [here] has not been friendly,'' she says.

There are also parts of the state where both campaigns are loathe to send black campaign workers. These areas are more like the Old South, where many Indianians trace their roots. When the Dukakis headquarters staff members refer to one black worker in the western part of the state, they add, ``He's protected.''

``You're looking at a state that has long been looked at as one of the KKK [Ku Klux Klan] headquarters north of the Mason-Dixon line,'' says Kurt Wise, a state Democratic Party spokesman. ``You'll once every so often have a cross burning ... or a [KKK] rally. It's not something we are particularly proud of, and it certainly is something we are trying to change,'' he says.

State Democratic chairman John Livengood says the party is coming closer together, and he points out that the party has nominated two black candidates for statewide office.

The Rev. Mr. Jackson, who knows that a series of substantial loses to Mr. Dukakis will hurt his chances in California, has taken an exit off the ``high road'' and has begun airing a commercial aimed at Dukakis. The ad compares Dukakis to George Bush, portraying both as ``establishment'' candidates. ``George Bush says `stay the course.' Michael Dukakis says `manage the damage.' But there's another candidate for President - Jesse Jackson - who says change the course of the country. Save jobs, protect our neighborhoods from drugs. Keep our families together. Vote Jesse Jackson for president.''

In neighboring Ohio, Jackson will spend close to $450,000 on media purchases, substantially outspending the Dukakis campaign in a reversal of spending patterns from earlier in the race. To help finance this growing media budget, Jackson officials are experimenting with a 900 phone number that supporters in Cleveland can dial to hear a message from Jackson. These people will then get a $20 charge on their next phone bill, which will be forwarded to Jackson campaign coffers. If the returns exceed the $12,500 it cost, the program will be repeated in other cities where Jackson is popular.

Jackson is clearly on the offensive, challenging Dukakis on foreign policy and asking the governor to come up with budget figures to back his rhetoric on domestic programs. While campaigning over the weekend in Ohio, Jackson told one audience that ``leaders are not against managers,'' in a reference to the Massachusetts governor, ``they hire them. In the critical hours, you need leaders who will set the moral tone for the country.''

But Dukakis refuses to step into the fray, preferring to aim his political fire at Vice-President Bush and the current administration. Dukakis's latest ammunition comes from President Reagan's opposition to trade-bill legislation containing a provision mandating 60-days' advance notice to workers when an employer plans to close a plant. ``These people are our neighbors,'' Dukakis tells Reagan in a letter. ``They deserve better from America.'' While Jackson focuses more on each race, Dukakis has begun to look beyond the primaries to the fall campaign.

Bush, who virtually ignored Indiana in 1980, made several appearances here last Friday. He addressed a fund-raiser, a rally at the convention center, and students in Indianapolis.

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