The sight of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama crisscrossing Indiana in their quest for the presidency is unfamiliar, at best, for the state's voters.

They will likely see plenty of both during the seven weeks leading up to the May 6 primary that will determine the candidates' share of the state's 72 delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

"Here in Indiana we're getting an opportunity to almost interview the candidates," former Indiana first lady Judy O'Bannon told a capacity crowd in Lawrenceburg this week as she introduced former President Bill Clinton.

Hillary Clinton makes her first campaign swing across Indiana on Thursday, with stops scheduled in Terre Haute, Anderson and Evansville. Clinton Indiana campaign spokesman Jonathan Swain said the candidate would visit New Albany next week. Obama spoke at a rally Saturday in Plainfield.

For a state that for decades has been an afterthought in presidential primaries and solidly in the Republican column in November, the expected rallies, town hall meetings and television ads for the Democratic candidates are the latest sign of how the Clinton-Obama race has changed the political landscape.

Presidential candidates for years have come to Indiana for quick fundraisers. The visits usually don't rise to the level of Bill Clinton's stump speech Tuesday at a Richmond fire station, said Robin Winston, a former state Democratic chairman who has been uncommitted since John Edwards dropped out of the race.

"These folks are trying to get votes," Winston said. "The schedule's pretty public and I've not read that it's a high-dollar, private event at the Richmond Country Club or anything like that. These are all get out and meet voters — that just tells you how much the race has changed."

Neither candidate seems to have a clear advantage among Hoosier voters.

Indiana has the nation's largest share of its work force — 13.7 percent — in manufacturing and its Rust Belt economy is similar to Ohio, where Clinton handily defeated Obama in that state's March 4 primary. But Indiana's unemployment rate is a full percentage point lower than Ohio's 5.5 percent, perhaps taking the edge off her typical advantage with blue-collar workers.

Obama, the senator from neighboring Illinois, could benefit from Chicago media coverage in northwest Indiana communities such as Gary and Hammond. The black population — a strong base for Obama — in the state is relatively small at 9 percent, while Indiana's Democratic primary is open to independents, who have strongly supported Obama in other states.

Hillary Clinton's trips to Terre Haute and Anderson fit with a strategy to build support in areas that have been hit with job losses, said Leonard Williams, a political science professor at Manchester College who spent a week following the campaigns in Iowa before that state's January caucuses.

"In the areas where we are more like Ohio, more like Michigan, you'll find Clinton tending to campaign there," Williams said. "Those parts of the state where there is a concentration of young people or a concentration of African Americans, you'll tend to find Obama making his pitch there. So I expect to see him in Gary, South Bend, Bloomington and possibly Lafayette as well."

Clinton is supported by much of the state's Democratic establishment, including Sen. Evan Bayh and former Gov. Joe Kernan. Bayh and three other Indiana superdelegates have endorsed Clinton, while two have backed Obama. Indiana's five Democratic congressmen remain uncommitted.

Both campaigns are still gearing up in Indiana after neither candidate had visited the state since last summer. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain held a town hall meeting in Indianapolis last month.

Kip Tew, a former state party chairman helping lead Obama's Indiana organization, said the campaign had already heard from thousands of volunteers and expected an influx from Illinois and elsewhere.

"I think his entire message will resonate with Hoosier Democratic voters," Tew said. "I think this is a real battleground. Obviously Senator Clinton has the very large help and assistance of Evan Bayh and that should never be underestimated."

Clinton's staff expects to open offices in each of Indiana's nine congressional districts as part of what state campaign chairman Joe Hogsett said is an effort "to mine support throughout the state, from all four corners of the state."

"If this week is indicative of how Hillary Clinton's campaign will not only conduct itself but will be received by the people of Indiana, I am very optimistic that her fortunes will be quite good on primary day," said Hogsett, a former Indiana secretary of state and close Bayh ally.

Clinton is banking heavily on a win in Pennsylvania's April 22 primary, while her campaign officials expect Obama to win North Carolina, which votes the same day as Indiana.

"Indiana looks to be one where it could conceivably go either way," Williams said. "It's going to be as close to a battleground state as I think you can find here in the next month of the campaign."

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