Vice President Biden’s Chief of Staff Highlights Indiana’s Role in Upcoming Election

Ron Klain speaks to Joe Biden for Indiana volunteers.

Native Hoosier Ron Klain returned to his home state to deliver a final campaign push to 37 Biden campaign volunteers at their weekly “motivational Monday” phone bank. 

David J. Ziemba, an ‘03 DePauw graduate is the State Coordinator for Joe Biden for Indiana, and he organized the virtual phone bank where volunteer callers contact constituents in key Indiana battlegrounds. Klain, who is rumored to take the same role if Biden wins on Nov. 3, was invited to speak to the volunteers before they started making calls. 

At the meeting, Klain highlighted the support for Biden and Kamala Harris around the country—in core states, swing states, reach-states and even in Indiana. Klain pointed to the high turnout among first-time voters, early voting and older people returning to the Democratic party. “I think when you look at where we are in this race, there's a lot of reasons for optimism,” Klain said.

Before the 2008 election, when Indiana played a key role in President Barack Obama’s win, Indiana hadn’t voted for a Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. 

As of Monday morning, over 1,100,000 Indiana voters have already voted, according to Ziemba. This early turnout is up 39 percent from this time in the 2016 election. Ziemba also highlighted that 73 percent of requested absentee ballots have already been returned. 

Despite high-turnout, Klain reminded volunteers that in addition to it being a week out from the General Election, it is also the night of Amy Coney Barret’s Supreme Court confirmation. 

“If we had won in 2016, tonight would be a very different night,” Klain said in the call. “We wouldn't be turning Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat over to one of the most conservative jurists we're ever going to see on the U.S. Supreme Court. We wouldn't have women's rights, healthcare and voting rights endangered the way they're going to be because of that.” 

Barrett’s nomination is a reminder, Klain says, of what is at stake in this election, and why every campaign effort over the next seven days is important. He highlighted the COVID-19 crisis, the economic crisis, access to health care, the climate crisis, racism, immigration and voter rights, among others issues that are on the ballot.

“The events tonight really just drive a dagger in our hearts around that question, [and] as far as I'm concerned, the opportunity to effectuate sweeping, powerful, progressive, positive change is enormous,” Klain said. 

Among the Zoom call attendees was 8 year old Connor from Greenwood, Ind., and his dad, Harry Van Aken. The pair were invited by Ziemba to say hello to the volunteer callers and listen to Klain speak. 

About a year ago, Connor started watching the news and became interested in politics and the candidates.  He started asking his dad, a lifelong conservative, questions about politics. At first, his dad told Connor that he doesn’t need to like Trump but he needs to respect the office. 

As Connor and his dad continued to engage in discussions about politics and watch the news and debates together, Van Aken underwent a political shift, and his discussions with his third-grader was a big part of that. 

 “These are extraordinary circumstances,” Van Aken said. “We've talked about all what's going on, and then as the election started heating up, I'm looking at my son, and I'm looking at his future and our discussions, and Biden was the clear choice.”

Van Aken sees this as an opportunity to engage in big conversations with Connor, but he also views the candidates through the lens of a father.

“It's hard to teach civility [to my son], when one candidate over another wasn't civil,” Van Aken said. “But I think Connor, if he's going to know—if he's going to learn—then he's going to learn now, because this is history.”

Van Aken said that he is taking Connor with him when he votes this week so Connor can see and be a part of the process at an early age. 

Voters like Van Aken, are who these phone bank efforts are attempting to engage in conversation with before Nov. 3.  

“We have meaningful conversations with people who you'd be surprised are still fairly undecided, thinking about voting or not, and, and really thinking through their plan to vote,” Mike Schmuhl, Pete Buttigieg's former campaign manager said at the event.

The Joe Biden for Indiana campaign is focusing on the key battlegrounds of Marion County, Lake County, South Bend, Fort Wayne, Evansville, West Lafayette and Bloomington. 

“In order for Democrats to win statewide, you have to have a huge number [of democratic votes] in Marion County, you also have to have a huge number out of Lake County,” Ziemba said. “That's typically your bastion of Democrat support and those two counties alone.”

Ziemba has been working on Biden’s bid for President since the 2018 midterms. Over the last two and a half months, he has organized phone banks for the Biden campaign efforts in Indiana.

Marion County has already seen voters stand in eight-hour long lines, according to several people on the call from that county. 

Not only does Klain say Democrats need to win the election, but he says they need to win by a large enough margin, that it cannot be disputed, cheated or misguided. In 2000, Klain was working as Al Gore’s general counsel, and was part of the 36 day Florida recount that secured Bush’s victory by a mere 537 votes. 

“We lost, and the history of this country, and the history of the world has been changed as a result,” Klain said. “And we can't let that happen again. And we know the only way, the only solid way to keep that from happening is to win the election with a sufficient margin. That result can't be placed into doubt that the victory is established beyond measure.”