Todd Young (right) has a clearer path to victory in the U.S. Senate race against Evan Bayh (left) than Eric Holcomb has against John Gregg in the gubernatorial race. (HPI Photos by Thomas Curry)
Todd Young (right) has a clearer path to victory in the U.S. Senate race against Evan Bayh (left) than Eric Holcomb has against John Gregg in the gubernatorial race. (HPI Photos by Thomas Curry)
By MARK SOUDER
    
CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. – It is hard to say which is the bigger shock: Todd Young’s large lead over Bayh or Eric Holcomb being in a tie with John Gregg. This WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana poll released on Friday will certainly have national reverberations. Essentially it suggests that while Young needs to not take his pedal off the floor, pushing until the end, that the Democrats will not capture this Senate seat. As the polling trend had been suggesting, they should have focused in other states.
    
Essentially Republicans have closed ranks in Indiana, just as they appear to be nationally. The national fault line has fairly evenly divided the country.  Donald Trump is admired by only a fraction of the GOP but the same holds true for Hillary Clinton within the Democrats. In fact, her enthusiasts among Democrats may be less than Trump’s within the Republicans, though those who dislike her within the Dems may be fewer nationally.
    
In Indiana, the anti-Clinton sentiment is much more intense than the national anti-Clinton sentiment. Not only is this state more socially conservative but more anti-international trade (e.g. NAFTA), pro-coal and pro-gun. None of which helps Clinton. She has neither the charm or hope that President Obama offered, and he did not openly promote international trade as Bill Clinton had done. Furthermore, talk radio has been pounding on the Clintons for 20 years.  
    
In the three WTHR/Howey polls, Clinton is locked on. She received 36% in September, 38% in October and 37% in November. Johnson’s supporters have also stayed relatively stable, which means she is not dislodging those younger dissenters nor would, for that matter, there be enough of them at this point.
    
The core question was thus whether or not Bayh, Gregg, Ritz and the Democrat statewide candidates could capture enough Trump voters to win if Hillary could not close the gap. The answer is this: Basically “no.”
    
First let me again review a couple of core polling challenges. This 2016 election is certainly the most difficult year to poll, compounding even the increasing difficulty of accurate polling in a digital age.  
    
Of the participants in this poll, over 20% had already voted, and nearly 40% planned to vote before election day. In Indiana. It also shows that a higher percentage of Hillary voters had already cast votes (similar to national findings because of a better Democrat “ground game). This is both good and bad news for Republicans. It means that Democrats will have a more difficult time closing any negative gap, but it also means that there is more risk that the Republican voters could stay home.
    
The biggest discussion in national polls has been how to pick up the fluidity of people changing willingness to participate. There have to be assumptions on the mix of voters chosen in every category (e.g. party, income, gender, race, region, age, education). This year those divisions have become much sharper. Men/women and race have split apart.  
    
So has education in part because of the widely noted issue of job loss related to changes in our economy. A knowledge-based economy favors more educated, white, suburban voters in particular as well as the “new urban areas” within major cities (e.g. Broad Ripple, some parts of downtown Indy).  Trump’s appeal has been particularly sharp in the so-called “blue collar” areas that got “left behind.”
    
This dramatically shows up in the WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana poll in the education category. Those with high school degrees or less overwhelmingly favor Trump and almost all of the Republicans. Those with post-college education overwhelmingly favor Clinton and the Democrats. So this year, though party, gender, race, etc matter a lot – and just a few percentage points off impact the final projections in a close poll – education has also become a critical variable. Getting such polling balance is virtually impossible. (It also explains, to the lay person, that when a poll says that 600 voters were included that far more than that had to be sorted – 600 random voters would not be accurate at all.)
    
In the last two WTHR/Howey Politics polls, I pointed out that college and post-graduate (which includes not only degrees but other types of certifications) were over-represented which actually was giving the Democrat candidates higher scores. For example, in the last poll, I felt that Todd Young may have actually been ahead.
    
This poll had a 5% decline in the post-graduate category, which represented much of Young’s gain in this poll compared to the last relative to Bayh. It also helped Holcomb slightly.
    
But it also illustrates why polling can be so interesting. The Ritz-McCormick race is an example. Not surprisingly, more teachers have post-college education than average voters. The Ritz campaign has always been a proxy for the ISTA. In Indiana, many if not most teachers are Republicans. When they turned on Bennett because of his abrasive style of pushing vouchers (the legislators have not felt the same backlash, interestingly), the Superintendent of Public Instruction became a symbol of implied Republican lack of support for public education.
    
This phenomenon, by the way, has also shown up dramatically on my Facebook page where many teachers have posted or messaged me that they will be voting for Young, often Trump but for Ritz. And, often, for Gregg.
    
Thus we see in the WTHR/Howey poll some interesting raw numbers. There were 287 Trump voters. Bayh received 31 and Gregg 32. That is also interesting: Gregg is getting just as many as Bayh. The vaunted Bayh crossover advantage does not exist anymore.
    
The Hillary vote holds for both Bayh and Gregg even stronger than the Trump vote holds.  But – and this is huge – the drop-off among Holcomb voters among Trump voters is significant compared to Young voters. In other words, while both gained among Trump voters, Young gained more.  
    
Why?
    
As you break-out poll results, the sample sizes become smaller thus are less reliable. But they can suggest trends.  
    
I would suggest that it is likely mostly because of multiple variables: 1) nationalization of the election – why vote for a Republican President but give the Democrats control of the Senate 2) the perception of Republicans being anti-public education is spreading, which hurts at the state level 3) Young has far out-spent Holcomb, and had a primary which spread is name identification further 4) Young had an excellent campaign strategy which, combined with Bayh’s errors – insisting that he wasn’t an lobbyist and lived in Indiana – drove up Bayh’s unfavorable ratings and 5) Gregg had a steady, low risk campaign combined with a vicious blast at the comparatively unknown Holcomb at the end.
    
Thus it seems that Trump will carry Indiana easily, Young will have a solid victory, the gubernatorial race may be close, and Ritz will be reelected.  This confirms what I had been gathering as well, though depending upon the Trump margin, Gregg’s trend line seems to be rising.

Souder is a former Republican member of Congress from Indiana.