Democrats are scrambling to capitalize on the Republican upheaval stemming from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's decision to abruptly drop his re-election bid and become Donald Trump's running mate, temporarily leaving the party without a candidate for the state's top job.
The Democratic Governors Association donated $500,000 on Tuesday to John Gregg's campaign for governor, boosting his already sizable fundraising advantage over several Republicans jockeying to join the race.
That's a significant windfall for the Democrat's campaign, which raised about $3 million in the most recent quarter.
Additionally, Gregg, a former Democratic state House speaker, is trying to take advantage of the GOP vacuum by running a positive, new statewide ad focused on education. In it, Gregg says Indiana needs to statewide preschool program and calls for a solution to testing problems in student standardized exams that arose after Republicans overhauled the state's education standards.
"With Mike Pence gone, this race is an open seat - and whichever Republican emerges will be saddled with Pence's baggage," said DGA executive director Elisabeth Pearson. "We look forward to playing offense in Indiana this year."
Several GOP contenders are vying to replace Pence on the ballot, but a candidate will not be selected until July 26 when the 22-member Republican Party committee meets behind closed doors. Whoever is selected could be at an organizational and fundraising disadvantage with Pence's key campaign operatives joining the vice presidential campaign.
Regardless of who becomes the party's nominee, Republicans don't see themselves at a disadvantage in November.
"If unprecedented job creation and record state reserves are baggage, then I'm sure our Republican candidate for governor will tote it all the way to victory in November," said Republican strategist Robert Vane.
At this point, however, the fundraising advantage is on Gregg's side. His campaign says they have more than $6 million in their campaign fund. The leading GOP contenders have a fraction of that.
U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks reported roughly $1.3 million on-hand at the end of June. U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita reported $1.4 million during the same period. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb has about $20,000 on hand.
Still, Pence could lend considerable assistance to whoever is selected and is sitting on a campaign account with a balance of about $7.4 million.
"Whoever they choose is going to start at tremendous disadvantage when it comes to fundraising, name recognition and having a statewide network and campaign operating," said Gregg spokesman Jeff Harris. "We've been focused on these issues since day one. We felt comfortable in the position we were in prior to the change, and we feel good about where we are now."