By BRIAN A. HOWEY
– For Gov. Mike Pence, the presidential maelstrom that roared through
the state has left him, at least temporarily, twisting, twisting,
twisting in the political winds.
He found himself in the
national glare last weekend, first with his squishy endorsement of the
Ted Cruz presidential campaign on Friday, then new NBC/Wall Street
Journal/Marist job approval numbers that had him at 43/43%. Those are
ominous numbers for an incumbent Republican in the Hoosier state this
late in the cycle. They reinforced the fav/unfav numbers in the
WTHR/Howey Politics Polls of April 18-21 that had Pence at 44/41% and
71/22% among Republicans. And the right/track wrong/track numbers are
equally bad, 44/45% among the general electorate and 61/29% for
Republicans. The poll also showed Pence favorability at 59% in the
Republican-rich doughnut counties.
More bad news? In Hamilton
County, more than 10,000 Republicans scratched on the governor’s race
in Tuesday’s primary, with 65,902 voting in the U.S. Senate race and
only 55,596 in the governor’s race. Granted, Pence was unopposed, but
we’re talking about just a mere hand stroke and 10,000 Republicans took a
pass. In Vigo County, it was 30% of Republicans taking a pass. Some had
to be sending a message. Pence allies remind HPI that the primary is
often the “general” election when it comes to local races.
fact that Cruz was resoundingly rejected by Indiana Republican voters
on Tuesday, 53-37%, including more than 50% of evangelical voters who
are deciding on the presidential race via pocketbook issues over those
of abortion and gay rights, is a political problem for the governor. Washington Post columnist Mike Gerson, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Dan Coats and U.S. Rep. Mark Souder, wrote last week that Pence “should be in a dominant position as he campaigns for reelection. The state’s economy is booming. Pence can take credit for the second-largest budget surplus in Indiana history. Yet a recent poll has the governor with less than 50% support and barely ahead of a politically mediocre Democratic challenger."