By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. –  Republicans Donald Trump and Todd Young have taken decisive to strong leads in the Indiana presidential and U.S. Senate races in the final WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll, while the gubernatorial race between Republican Eric Holcomb and Democrat John Gregg is an absolute dead heat at 42%, with 11% undecided.
    
And in the bellwether 9th CD, Republican Trey Hollingsworth has a 44-42% lead over Democrat Shelli Yoder in a race that is seen as a clue to potential down-ballot behavior.

Gregg faces a closing dynamic of Republican voters “coming home” to Donald Trump. “It’s a dead heat,” said Public Opinion Strategies Pollster Gene Ulm. “The candidates have similar images and that gives a modest advantage to Gregg. But when you look at undecided voters, Trump is winning 41-30%. Who has their base in and who doesn’t? Trump is polling 86% of the Republican vote and Holcomb is getting 81% of that vote. For the Democrats, Clinton is at 85% and Gregg at 84%. Among independents, Trump is a plus 19%, so Trump will have an impact.”
    
Can Gregg win? “I think so,” Ulm said, “but you’d have to give Holcomb the advantage, but not a big one.”
    
But it appears that the GOP numbers are beginning to align. In the Indianapolis media market, Trump is up 4%, Young minus one and Holcomb minus 2. In the Fort Wayne market, Trump is up 19%, Young up 17% and Holcomb up 4%. “But he’ll bump up a little more there,” Ulm said. In South Bend, Trump is up 33%, Young up 24% and Holcomb up 16%. In the Indianapolis donut counties, Trump is down 1%, Young down 1% and Holcomb is down 5%
    
The survey was conducted Nov. 1-3 of 600 likely voters statewide, including 360 landlines and 240 cell phones. The statewide survey has a plus/minus 4% margin of error. This final poll also included a 310 likely voter over-sample in the 9th CD, with a margin of error there at 5.56%. This is the first independent media survey taken in the 9th CD.
    
In the Oct. 3-5 WTHR/Howey Politics survey, Trump had a mere 43-38% lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton, but he has now jetted out to what appears to be a decisive 48-37% lead, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 9%, down from 11% in our September and October surveys. Hoosier Republicans appear to be heeding the call of Gov. Mike Pence to “come home.” Trump is drawing 86% of Republicans and leads Clinton with independent voters by a decisive 46-27%.
    
Trump has improved on his favorable/unfavorables, going from 42/56% in October to 45/52% in November, while Clinton declined to 35/63% from 37/62% in October. This survey was conducted after last Friday’s bombshell announcement by FBI Director James Comey that his agency was investigating a new trove of emails found on the computer of Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of top Clinton aide Huma Abedin.
    
The number likely to generate the most buzz both statewide and nationally shows Young with a 46-41% lead, with Libertarian Lucy Brenton at 6% and just 5% undecided. When Bayh came out of political retirement in July, nudging nominee Baron Hill off the ticket, he publicized internal polling that showed him leading by close to 20%. But Young and powerful super PAC allies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Senate Leadership Fund under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Rifle Association have issued an unrelenting, scorched-earth volley against the former two-term senator and governor. Despite Bayh’s entry into the race with a $10 million war chest, he has seen his lead whittled from 44-40% in the September WTHR/Howey Politics Poll, to 42-41% in October and now 46-41% in Young’s favor.
    
It’s easy to see why. Bayh’s favorable/unfavorables have declined to 39/45% from 48/28% in our September survey. In essence, Young and his super PAC allies had eviserated Bayh’s clean image by painting him as enriching himself during and after his Senate term, which he abruptly ended in 2010. They have assaulted him on the residency issue that doomed U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in the 2012 primary, and news accounts have documented job searches and oily votes for future employers while he was still in office.
    
“How could anyone go from 48/28% to 39/%45%?” pollster Ulm asked. “It’s inside out. Evan Bayh has been ruthlessly defined by them. It is the destruction of a brand.”
    
Ulm pointed to the 29/67% right/wrong track number nationally. “Voters are depreciating any experience. People want change.”
    
Asked if he had ever seen a candidate’s favorables plummet as much as Bayh’s, Ulm said, “Usually when they commit a crime or something or they’re just horribly bad candidates, like Sharon Angle versus Harry Reid in Nevada. The same thing that is hurting Hillary Clinton is hurting Evan Bayh.”
    
Bayh, who could once count on about 25% of the Republican vote during his last three gubernatorial and U.S. Senate bids, is now attracting just 7% of the GOP vote. His fav/unfavs with Republicans stand at 14/70% and among independents 35/47%. It is an epic and historic destruction of character.
    
After our October survey, Ulm suggested that this election has turned into a referendum on Bayh as a quasi incumbent and creature of the despised Washington culture. In order to survive, Bayh would have to “destroy” Young. He has run ads that document Young’s FEC campaign finance fines, misuse of homestead tax credits and bounced checks, but they don’t appear to have stuck. “Bayh is doing everything he can to disqualify Young, but the wind is too much in his face,” Ulm said. He pointed to independent voters where Bayh’s fav/unfavs stand at 35/47% while Young is at 35/30%. “Bayh is upside down by a massive margin,” Ulm said.
    
In yet another example of Hoosiers willing to split their tickets, Democratic Supt. Glenda Ritz holds a 44-38% lead over underfunded Republican Jennifer McCormick. “But when you look at undecided voters, they favor by a 52-23% margin for Trump over Clinton. That’s going to provide a lot of closing power for McCormick,” Ulm said.
    
In 2012 in the final Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll, then-Republican Supt. Tony Bennett had a 4% advantage over Ritz at 40-36%, but lost 52-48%. So this is an example of an incumbent polling well below the crucial 50% threshold. The one advantage for Ritz is an intense education community which has been upset over the Daniels/Bennett/Pence era reforms and controversies. For Ritz to survive on Tuesday, she is going to have to activate that network to high intensity.

A 9th CD tossup
    
And in the national congressional bellwether 9th CD, Republican Trey Hollingsworth clings to a 44-42% lead over Democrat Shelli Yoder. That race has drawn national attention as a potential indicator of how the presidential race is influencing down-ballot races.
    
“Given the top of the ticket, this is shockingly close,” Ulm said. “We’re at 44-42%. But Yoder’s Democratic vote is already in. Clinton is getting 90% of the Democratic vote in the 9th and Yoder is at 91%. But with Republicans, Trump is getting 92% while Hollingsworth is at 83%.”
    
Among 9th CD independents, Trump is leading by 20% and Hollingsworth is up 10%. “Who has the wind at their back? Hollingsworth, but it’s not huge.”

Pence stature up slightly
    
Gov. Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, saw his standing rise with Hoosier voters. He had been a polarizing influence as the gubernatorial candidate and nominee. In October, his fav/unfavs stood at a tepid 47/45%, but his stature increased to 50/44% as he has spent the last few weeks standing up for Trump’s character despite at least 11 women coming forward to accuse Trump of sexual improprieties and his public battle with an overweight beauty queen.
    
Pence has been urging Republicans here in Indiana and nationally to “come home” and it appears they are. This homecoming has the potential to push Hoosier down-ballot races into the Republican column.
    
The national right/wrong track number has remained steady in all three surveys, settling at 29/67% in this final poll.

National trends still favor Clinton
    
Ulm notes that while the Trump/Pence ticket is ascending here in Indiana, they still face a tough national environment. “In early voting, Democrats typically have a huge advantage. When it’s close, Republicans haven’t been able to have an equal offset on election day. Clinton is only leading among early voters 45-43%. Trump is winning among Election Day voters 51-32%. Look at Florida and North Carolina and we’re seeing similar trend.”
    
“Trump’s climb in the polls has been mostly Republicans coming home,” Ulm said. “The Democrat base has been locked in.” He said that three weeks ago, Clinton was looking at 340 to 370 Electoral College votes. “I think she’s at 304 now.”
    
As for the Trump/Pence narrative that polling isn’t capturing all of their support, Ulm explained, “I don’t believe that’s the case. You see upticks and downticks, but if you look on average, you’ve got people coming home. He’s polling very similar to Romney on base Republican voters. He has a little more advantage among blue collars, but disadvantage with educated women. The differences in surveys are up or down a point.”
    
While some point to people unlikely to admit publicly or to a pollster they are voting for Trump, the same can be said for independents or even some Republicans who wouldn’t publicly acknowledge they are voting for Clinton.