The Electoral Map: Indiana

Like Missouri, voters in Indiana will be choosing members of the House, a President, a Governor and a Senator.  Unlike Missouri, the Senate race is an open one.  The Governor’s race became an open one when incumbent Mike Pence joined the Trump ticket as his running mate.  And unlike Missouri, the Senate race became interesting when Baron Hill, the man who won the Democratic primary, dropped out of the race allowing the Indiana Democratic Party to choose an replacement.

But, first- the House seats.  There are two open, Republican-held seats this year which became so because the incumbents sought the open Senate seat- Todd Young, the more establishment favored candidate in the Ninth District, and Marlin Stutzman, the more Tea Party candidate from the Third District.  Neither of these districts are in serious danger of falling into the hands of the Democrats come Election Day.  Thus, although names will change- Republican Jim Banks in the 3rd and Trey Hollingsworth in the 9th- expect the Indiana delegation to the House to remain 7-2 in favor of the GOP.

In the primaries, the GOP establishment got their guy when Todd Young defeated Stutzman by a 2:1 margin in the vote count.  On the Democratic side, Baron Hill ran unopposed, but then dropped out of the race in July saying that his chances of defeating Young were nil.  Most likely, his lack of fundraising and enthusiasm for his candidacy prompted the decision.  That allowed the Democratic Party of Indiana to choose a successor and they chose former Senator Evan Bayh, who retired in 2010 and whose seat the retiring GOP incumbent, Dan Coats, won that year.  The Coats retirement came as a surprise as there was every indication he was gearing up for a run at reelection.  His decision, coupled with the Hill withdrawal after that, totally shook up that this race.

Before going further, it must be acknowledged that Bayh left the Senate as a fairly popular Senator among Indiana voters after being a fairly popular Governor.  So, Indiana voters are familiar with him.  What they are not familiar with is his post-Senate career which includes employment at a high powered Washington law firm that basically is a lobbying firm, and a senior adviser at a New York City private equity firm.  Bayh is also being rightfully accused of “abandoning Indiana” since he has been listed as an inactive, but registered voter since 2014.  Combined with the conflicts over his listed residence on many documents stating Washington, DC (where he owns two homes plus one in Florida and an unused condo in Indianapolis), the persona of Evan Bayh- fighter for Indiana voters- is taking a serious hit.  To his credit, Todd Young is hammering Bayh on this point, questioning his sincerity and dedication to Indiana.  This race has become so important that Young managed to bring former President George W. Bush out of retirement to host a few fundraisers in Indiana.

Despite Bayh’s relative popularity, polling data is sparse in such an important race.  If one was to look at these polls, it should be lights out for Young.  The average of 8 polls since Bayh entered the race shows him ahead by an average of a whopping 8.6 points.  However, since the recent attacks on Bayh’s residency have taken effect, the two most recent polls show Young trailing by 3-6 points which would be a dramatic improvement and certainly indicative of some momentum heading into November.  In short, this race is now less of a slam dunk for the Democratic Party which explains why they are dumping more money into this race.

It should also be noted that after Bayh retired in 2010, he never really dismantled his campaign finance infrastructure and started with a huge advantage over Young.  At the end of the second quarter of 2015, Bayh had a $9.4 million to $1.2 million advantage over Young in cash-on-hand.  Hence, Young may now be fighting the ultimate David versus Political Goliath race in the country, something he can use to his advantage.

Indiana politics was further ruffled when incumbent GOP Governor Mike Pence withdrew from the race to be Donald Trump’s Vice Presidential pick.  This added greater confusion to Indiana’s political dynamics this year.  Just as the Democrats had to pick a candidate for the Senate race, the GOP had to pick a candidate to replace Pence.  Truth be told, Pence was not necessarily a shoo-in for reelection- likely, but not a given.  He had raised the ire of many factions in Indiana over first signing their religious freedom act into law- drawing the ire of liberals, many of them NOT from Indiana- and then conservatives over his less-than-enthusiastic support of the law.  The state GOP chose Lt. Governor Eric Holcomb as Pence’s replacement on the ticket to take on Democrat John Gregg who ran unopposed in their primary.

Meager polling in this race would indicate a Gregg victory, albeit a narrow one on the order of less than 5 points.  Despite the confusion and drama involved in this and the Senate race, considering that Holcomb is this close to Gregg this late in the game should give the GOP hope.  Further, there is history on the side of Gregg as Indiana voters have not chosen a Democratic Governor since the 2002 election.  Additionally, Pence had amassed a huge war chest for his gubernatorial run in excess of $7 million.  However, campaign finance law prevents him from transferring all but $1.25 million to Holcomb’s campaign.  Many Pence donors have since shifted funding to Holcomb’s campaign.

On the Presidential front, polls indicate a Trump victory here.  If one remembers, Trump’s victory in the GOP primary in Indiana basically forced both Cruz and Kasich out of the race.  Trump’s selection of Pence as his running mate has had basically no effect on his standing in the polls in Indiana.  He was in fairly safe position before the announcement.  So, one can pencil in Indiana’s 11 electoral votes for Donald Trump.

As for ticket splitting in Senate/Presidential races, Indiana voters have done so only twice in six chances, but more importantly those two splits occurred most recently in 2012 when Romney won Indiana and Joe Donnelly won the Senate race and in 2008 when Obama eked out victory while Dick Lugar won the Senate seat.  Thus, there is recent history for ticket splitting.

As for gubernatorial ticket splitting against the presidential race, there have been nine opportunities since 1980 with splits occurring six times.

Once again, working under a worst-case scenario for the Republican Party, one would have to predict a John Gregg victory in the gubernatorial race by a small margin.  Likewise, one would have to predict an Evan Bayh victory in the open Senate race unless there is some dramatic shift in the polls, but there is nothing out there to indicate a Young victory other than the polls being dramatically false.

Like Missouri, the results are a mixed bag in Indiana.  I can see foresee ticket splitting in at least one race- either the Senate or Governor’s race.  Trump will win the state.  Ticket splitting in both down ballot races would be an unmitigated Republican disaster.  However, given Indiana’s conservative leanings, one cannot see both races going to the Democrats.  And it is too hard to predict given the dynamics here.  Do Indiana voters reject Evan Bayh and view him as out-of-touch with Indiana for the past six years and put their trust in Young?  Do they instead choose a proven entity in Bayh, but choose Holcomb to carry on Pence’s legacy, and how much faith is there in that legacy?

After Indiana, the GOP maintains their advantage in the House 236-139.  Given the above analysis, the GOP can likely deal with a Democratic Governor in Indiana if the legislature remains in Republican control.  What they cannot deal with is a double loss down ballot and loss of a Senate seat also.  One or the other has to give.  Again, worse case scenario would give Bayh a victory.

After Indiana, the GOP maintains their lead in the House 239-196.  Although they lose a Governor’s office, they keep a 51-49 advantage in the Senate and Trump now leads Clinton 180-159 in the electoral vote count.

Next up: Michigan