Opinion: Indiana and North Dakota Democrats feel the excitement

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At the least, the ongoing Democratic presidential race is giving activists in states where the party usually is hopelessly outmatched in White House elections a chance to rally their forces -- and raise some cold, hard cash.

In Indiana, site of a now-crucial primary on May 6, the state Democratic chairman adroitly re-scheduled the date of the party’s annual spring dinner from April 18 to May 4 -- and made a point of inviting both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to attend.

No Democratic presidential candidate has won Indiana (which now has 11 electoral votes) since Lyndon Johnson did so in his 1964 landslide. And the odds should be against either Obama or Clinton this fall. But their nomination battle almost assuredly will make the state party’s banquet a much livelier, and far more lucrative, affair than in the past.

Carrying North Dakota’s three electoral votes will be an even stiffer challenge for the Democratic ticket in November -- George Bush garnered 63% of the vote there in 2004 and, again, Johnson was the last Democrat to carry it. But the state party is taking advantage of Obama’s appeal (he easily won the state’s caucuses on Feb. 5) to build up ...

its treasury.

Obama has agreed to deliver the keynote address at North Dakota’s Democratic convention this Friday (presumably, he’ll piggyback this trip with some stops in South Dakota, which holds its primary on June 3). Folks can hear him at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks for free. But if they’d like to greet him at a reception beforehand, that will cost $100 a ticket -- ‘with all funds raised going to the state party,’ Jamie Selzler, its executive director, assured fellow Democrats in a recent blog posting.


Obama will arrive in North Dakota in the midst of a mini-tempest in which he is an unwitting part. A recent skit at North Dakota State University, put on as part of a charity fundraiser, featured a white student in blackface portraying Obama and receiving a lap dance.

Also as part of the skit -- which clearly qualifies on several levels for the characterization ‘sophomoric’ -- two students dressed as cowboys expressed their affection for one other, a la ‘Brokeback Mountain.’

Josh Reimnitz, the school’s student government president, was among the audience members and termed the performance ‘totally tasteless’ (no kidding). University officials are investigating (not surprisingly). More about the flap can be found here.

-- Don Frederick