In the 21st century, Indiana has started to shift in some small ways. It now boasts more residents who were born outside of the state than Ohio or Michigan does. (Indiana also scores better than them on some measures of racism.) More striking, though, are the ways in which Indiana has stayed the same. Among its Old Northwestern peers, Indiana ranks last in median family income. It ranks last in the percentage of residents who’ve completed a bachelor’s degree. It ranks first in the share of the population that is white Evangelical Protestant and in the share of residents who identify as conservative. On these and a host of other measures — percentage of homes without broadband internet, rate of teen pregnancy, rate of divorce — you’ll often see Indiana finishing closer to Kentucky or Tennessee than to Ohio or Wisconsin. In other words, you’ll see 200 years of history making its presence known.
A lot of those factors correlate with support for Trump. (Another way to say this is that Thomas Lincoln would have probably voted for The Donald.) The Hoosier State has lots of manufacturing — the most in the country, by some measures — and that seems good for Trump, too. Yet the Evangelical presence could be promising for Cruz (with the caveat that Indiana scores lower on church attendance). And then there’s Cruz’s deal with Kasich, though it’s somewhat muddled by the preferences of the state’s delegates(and by Kasich’s own statements).
For all of these reasons, Indiana remains a tough primary to call. But the toughest factor is the state’s own essential strangeness. What do I think, as a native son? I think Trump will do better here than most pundits predict. But I also think those pundits should spend less time talking about Trump and more time trying to understand our complicated, diverse, historically messy (and yet ultimately endearing) 50 states.