Mark Souder: Young has the Senate race momentum
Sunday, October 09, 2016 2:55 PM
FORT WAYNE – The second WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll provides additional good news to every television station as well as other Indiana media, because if you think you’ve seen a lot of candidate ads for senate and governor, wait until you see what is coming.
Congressman Todd Young has come from far behind to, at worst, within 1% of the early assumed winner, former governor and senator Evan Bayh. The race that may decide who controls the United States Senate is essentially tied.
Former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg holds a two-point edge over Lt. Gov. Holcomb, but that means that they also are basically tied in the race that will determine which direction our state will head.
Even the presidential race has tightened a bit, and there are some signs that while Donald Trump and his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence, are still likely to defeat Hillary Clinton here, the race could tighten even further.
Before discussing the details I feel it is important to note the dramatic drop in the number of conservative voters in this poll as opposed to the first poll. It was a 13% drop. In other words, Todd Young and Eric Holcomb gained even though the number of moderate and liberal voters significantly increased. It means one of the following things: Indiana has become significantly more liberal since September; or one poll either over-sampled or under-sampled conservatives.
Since exactly 586 people identified their ideology in both polls, it becomes easier to convert the actual raw data to percentages. In September, 52.3% identified themselves as conservatives of some type, and 47.7% said they were moderates or liberals (tilting moderate). In October, only 41.6% identified as conservatives and 58.4% were moderates and liberals. Even more dramatically, the “very conservative” category – those most likely to vote for the Republican candidates – dropped at the greatest rate.
Using the September number of conservatives, of which Young received 63% and Bayh 22%, the shift to Young would change the October bottom line to: Young 43.5% and Bayh 39.7%. In other words, Young would be ahead by nearly 4%. Furthermore, in October, Young actually increased his dominance among conservatives to 70%-15%. Assumptions matter in close races.
Like good pollsters do, there were 290 pages of cross-tabulations. It is impossible to fully digest all the data to meet our rapid publication deadline but here are some core thoughts on the big three races:
The presidential race looks like it tightened from a Trump lead of 7% down to 5%. That’s partly because of rounding rules (he’s actually above 43 and she’s below 38). Trump received the same number of raw votes, and she increased by nine. This is in spite of Trump’s first debate disaster and the partial release of his tax data. His terrible week didn’t translate to much Indiana gain for Hillary.
Her glimmer of Indiana hope in this poll is in the Gary Johnson vote. He continues at 11%, receiving exactly the same number of votes as in September. The break-outs make it clear that more Johnson voters are Democrats than Republicans. His vote is heavily skewed to the two younger age voter categories.
The Libertarian Party vote for Senate and governor clarifies this the most. The self-identified conservative vote for Libertarian statewide candidates is more than double that for Johnson (i.e. the more conservative Libertarians vote for all the Libertarians). This strongly suggests that perhaps half of the Johnson voters in Indiana are disgruntled, younger Bernie Sanders voters. If those Democrats came home, Clinton would be pretty close in Indiana (certainly within the margin of polling error). In other words, it is not clear how Trump gains much, but Hillary has a slight window.
The Senate race does not present the same hope for Bayh. The Sanders voters seem to be largely in his camp already. But he has an even bigger problem. Even though he has outspent Young in the period between the polls, and mixed a few positive ads in with his media blizzard of negative ads, Bayh has had a steep rise in his unfavorable rating combined with a drop in his favorable rating. Young’s ratio remained about the same, but Bayh dropped from heavily favorable (48-28 in September) to narrowly favorable (43-39).
This is, I would again point out, in spite of having substantially fewer conservatives in this poll. Bayh had not been hit with many negative ads for decades. He began as a warm fuzzy because he is a nice guy, but his vote on Obamacare, his obviously false claim that he isn’t a lobbyist, and his time away from Indiana have sent his positive image crumbling.
Furthermore, Bayh has already consolidated the Hillary vote. Young still has not rounded up all the Trump voters. In other words, Young has more space to grow his vote.
The national Republicans are likely to be thrilled with these results. The Democrats may, if this trend line continues, need to begin to focus on a few more winnable races. That said, I have watched Evan and his dad recover before. Anybody in Indiana who underestimates a Bayh should get out of politics and political commentary.
The most remarkable thing in the gubernatorial race is the inability of John Gregg to put away Eric Holcomb. Gregg has practically been camping in our living room for months with his television bombardment of Fort Wayne. And he ran for governor, backed up with millions in ad dollars, in the last campaign. The biggest thing I hear relative to Eric is “Tell me again, who is the Republican running for governor?”
Gregg seems to have a locked-down vote, but it is not yet enough to win. The only question is whether Holcomb can continue to gather in the Republicans who have yet to make their choice. Young may have more momentum, but Bayh is a much tougher candidate to defeat than Gregg.
The number one conclusion from this second Howey Politics Indiana poll is this: Here in Indiana, we are likely in for a continued wild ride to the finish line.
Souder is a former Republican congressman from Indiana.