Clinton and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh. (AP Photo)
TERRE HAUTE, Indiana (CNN) – Hillary Clinton spent Thursday stumping in Indiana, as her campaign looks ahead to states that vote after Pennsylvania’s April 22 primary.
"We see Indiana as a very competitive state," said Clinton spokesman Doug Hattaway. "Like Ohio and Pennsylvania, the economy is the top issue we see. We feel like voters are in a place where they do see her as the candidate who can turn it around."
Indiana borders Barack Obama's home state of Illinois. Despite that advantage, the Clinton campaign is confident that Hoosier voters see the New York senator as best-equipped to handle the economy, as primary voters did in Ohio on March 4, according to exit polls.
Hattaway said Indiana had lost 9,000 manufacturing jobs in the last year and ranks tenth in the nation in home foreclosures.
He added that along with Pennsylvania, the campaign also sees upcoming states like West Virginia (May 13) and Kentucky (May 20) as places where Clinton will run strong due to economic concerns.
Clinton – who campaigned Thursday with backer Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh - chose a convenient day to get her message out, 24 hours before the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team kicks off their NCAA tournament bid against Arkansas.
The campaign wasted little time getting into the nitty-gritty, low-key policy pitch that has come to define Clinton's campaign style: her first stop was held in a cramped diner in Terre Haute, where she held a roundtable with locals, discussing health care, education, the war in Iraq and gas prices.
Bayh introduced his candidate at the diner, telling the audience to "join me in giving a warm Hoosier welcome to the next president of the United States."
"This is the first time in 40 years that Indiana has had a meaningful presidential primary, and all I can say is it’s about time," Bayh said.
At a press conference after the roundtable, Bayh praised Clinton but was careful to note Obama’s built-in upper hand in the state.
“Sen. Obama is going to have some advantages in our state,” he said. “Twenty percent of our citizens watch Chicago TV. He is probably going to outspend Sen. Clinton, I don’t know, two, three, four to one. But this is a place where results and substance matters.”
- CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby