It's not the rematch against Republican Mike Sodrel that many Hoosiers were expecting, but Southern Indiana Congressman Baron Hill (D) has a new fight on his hands. Republican congressional candidate Todd Young hopes to ride what is predicted to be a national wave against incumbent Democrats.
According to an internal poll for Young's campaign, only 37 percent of voters say that Hill deserves reelection. Anything below 50 percent is considered to be trouble for an incumbent. The poll also shows that Hill is up by seven points, yet Hill says he fares better in his own internal polls.
The Ninth District is considered a bellwether for the national electoral picture, so this race is being watched very closely by Washington pundits.
Other than a 20 point Hill victory in 2008, "This has always been a tough district to run in, and I assume it would be this way again," Hill said at a Monday morning news conference, "Whether or not it's a bellwether, we'll let the pundits decide those kinds of issues."
The seat Hill has held for ten of the last twelve years is considered a toss-up.
"People are looking for political candidates, often times first time political candidates who are prepared to deal with some of these long term pressing challenges like our budget challenges that we're facing," said Republican challenger Todd Young.
The election shapes up to be a mandate on Hill's voting record, including his support of the Obama administration, the stimulus and the health care overhaul.
"And that's the reason I sleep very well at night," Hill said, "knowing that that vote was the right vote to take on health care."
Hill was asked if it costs him his seat, if that is a worthwhile exchange.
"Absolutely," Hill responded, "But I don't think it's going to cost me my seat, to answer to your question because I believe that once people learn more and more about it, they'll say this is a good plan for the American people."
Meanwhile, Hill is challenging Young to sign a pledge that he will not seek to privatize Social Security, a plan Hill says would subject retirement income to stock market risks.
"A lot of people would be in serious trouble with their Social Security because of the fall of the stock market and that's the problem I have with it," Hill explained.
"I will pledge to ensure that today's seniors and those approaching retirement will have all the benefits that have been promised to them preserved," Young countered, "We must honor that commitment."
"But I also call upon Baron Hill to pledge to ensure that this program remains sustainable into the future," Hill said, "He's part of the problem. He's spent all sorts of money that we don't have on things we don't need and it's jeopardizing important programs like Social Security."
And, Young is not backing away from comments made to supporters and redistributed via You Tube video, in which he likens Social Security, as it is actually run, to a Ponzi scheme.
"It's tragic that basically Congress for a number of years now has taken money that most American workers assume is being set aside for their own retirements and instead spending it on other things," Young explained, "That's precisely what Ponzi scheme investment vehicles do. And I was lamenting the fact that Congress is spending people's retirement money on other things."
"It does need to be fixed," Hill countered, "There are some unfunded liabilities, but it is not a Ponzi scheme like my opponent as said. Social Security is a sacred trust between the federal government and senior citizens."
"My pledge is, we gotta fix it," Hill continued, "It's not a serious problem to fix it, some minor altercations (sic) and I think you've got to look at perhaps the possibility of raising taxes in order to make it solvent."
"So, Baron Hill has gone on record once again for higher taxes," Young laughed, "That sounds characteristic of him. I appreciate his candor of supporting higher taxes and I look forward to talking about that all the way to November."
Hill says Republican icon Ronald Reagan also proposed raising taxes to protect Social Security.
"Seniors won't be fooled by this kind of 'scare the electorate' rhetoric," Young said.
"I don't look at it as a wedge issue," Hill said, "This is an important issue for senior citizens and that's the reason why I am today announcing that I will not vote to privatize Social Security and I'd just like to know where Todd Young is on this."
Hill and Young have only met once - at a ceremony to rename a road for Miss America Katie Stam. Both tell WHAS11 News they plan to meet again and debate so Hoosiers understand what's at stake in November.