A new poll from WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana shows that this fall’s U.S. Senate and Indiana gubernatorial contests should be quite competitive—and right now the Democratic candidates appear to have a slight edge.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg has a 40 percent to 35 percent lead over Republican Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, while Libertarian candidate Rex Bell has 6 percent of Hoosiers’ support, according to the poll.
In the U.S. Senate Race, Democrat Evan Bayh has 44 percent of the vote compared with 40 percent for Republican Todd Young. That result is within the poll’s margin of error, a sign the race could be a tossup.
Political analyst Brian Howey says the Senate polling numbers “represent an unprecedented challenge” for Bayh. Bayh took the place of Democratic candidate Baron Hill, who was trailing Young. Now, the race is one that could tilt control of the U.S. Senate from the Republicans to the Democrats.
Bayh’s favorable rating is high—48 percent—while 28 percent of Hoosiers view him unfavorably, the poll found. That compares with 30 percent of Hoosiers who view Young favorably and 22 percent who view him unfavorably.
In the governor’s race—which was shaken up this summer when Indiana Gov. Mike Pence withdrew to become Donald Trump’s running mate, catapulting Holcomb into the top spot on the ballot—the poll found Holcomb is largely a “blank slate” with voters.
About 44 percent of those surveyed have “never heard” of Holcomb, compared with 31 percent who have never heard of Gregg. Howey wrote in his newsletter that Holcomb has “anemic” favorable and unfavorable ratings, with about 17 percent of those polled viewing him favorably and 14 percent viewing him unfavorably. In comparison, 33 percent of Hoosiers view Gregg favorably, while 19 percent view him unfavorably.
Holcomb is garnering 51 percent support in the heavily Republican doughnut counties that surround Indianapolis. About 59 percent of doughnut-county voters supported Pence for governor in an April poll.
“A Republican gubernatorial candidate should be in the 60th percentile,” Howey wrote in his newsletter.
The WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana poll also surveyed voters about the presidential race, finding that Trump is in a good position to best Hillary Clinton in the state by a big margin. About 43 percent of those surveyed say they are likely to vote for Trump, compared with 36 percent for Clinton.
It appears that Gov. Mike Pence’s inclusion on the ticket has not helped Trump in Indiana. Pollster Gene Ulm of Public Opinion Strategies, who conducted the poll, said Pence is “largely irrelevant” in Indiana and will do better nationally.
When voters were asked whether Pence’s inclusion on Trump’s ticket made them more or less likely to vote for Trump, 41 percent said they were more likely and 38 percent less likely.
The poll surveyed 600 likely voters Sept. 6-8. The margin of error is 4 percent. The sample consisted of 40 percent independents, 31 percent Republicans and 28 percent Democrats.