Could Hillary Clinton actually overtake Donald Trump and win Indiana on Nov. 8?
Political observers have been wondering that since a poll released Friday by Monmouth University Polling Institute saw the Democratic presidential nominee pull within a four-percentage point striking distance of the Republican presidential nominee.
The poll had Trump up 45 percent to Clinton’s 41 percent among likely voters. That was within the margin of error of the poll, which surveyed 401 likely voters Oct. 11-13.
Trump is "still ahead, but this is not where anybody expected Indiana to be even before he picked Mike Pence as his running mate,” Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray said on Channel 6’s Indy This Week show. "Most people thought the Republican would have Indiana in the bag."
Trump’s performance in the polls have eroded from an 11-point lead in mid-August. Trump’s campaign has been dogged by recent accusations of sexual misconduct against women.
Political analyst Brian Howey of Howey Politics Indiana, whose Oct. 3-5 poll with WTHR showed Trump ahead of Clinton by 5 points, said he recently asked his pollster if Clinton could win the state.
“He said, ‘If Trump has another 10 days like he did the last 10 days, where he was feuding with a beauty queen, yeah, there is a scenario,’” Howey said. “Look at what Trump has done since that poll came out."
Political science professor Robert Dion of the University of Evansville is less bullish on that prospect.
“There’s a chance, but it’s the remotest of chances,”Dion said. “She’s not investing money here in advertising or extensive staff, because, realistically, she doesn’t need Indiana to get over the top in the Electoral College.”
Trump easily won his party's primary election in Indiana on May 3, which essentially sewed up the Republican nomination for him, while Bernie Sanders won the Democratic party’s primary in the state.
Howey said the key voting group that could flip the state is suburban women, many of whom may be put off by Trump’s recent problems, including a leaked tape with his sexually aggressive comments toward women and the subsequent flood of accusers.
The Monmouth poll showed 47 percent of Indiana women are choosing Clinton, while 38 percent of women support Trump.
Gov. Mike Pence has stood up for his running mate in TV appearances and denied the accusations, which Howey said probably hasn’t reassured Indiana women.
“Pence has his own problems with women,” Howey said. “I’m not sure he’s the best guy to (deliver that message)."
Though Indiana went blue in 2008 for Barack Obama, Dion said Democrats shouldn’t get too excited. There was a unique confluence of events helping Obama, including that he was from nearby Chicago.
"They had extra money and decided ‘Let’s see how far we can go with this' and they invested heavily in some really unlikely spots,” Dion said. Besides being from Chicago, “it helps that Indiana as an industrial state had taken a heavy hit during the 2008 recession and was looking for relief. We were staring into the abyss and hemorrhaging jobs. It took something really cataclysmic to shake traditional Republican voters.
While Clinton’s campaign may decide she has extra money to spend on swing states—she pulled in more than $154 million in fundraising last month—Indiana doesn’t appear to be a top priority.
“If she were to get really ambitious, it would be more likely to be something like [competing in] Arizona or maybe Georgia,” Dion said. “It’d be fun to beat the vice presidential candidate in his home state, but I don't know it’s a sensible investment.”
Republican Mitt Romney won the state in 2012 by 10 percentage points, and George W. Bush won the state twice.
Trump’s Indiana campaign sent out a statement last week that it was encouraged by the enthusiasm it was seeing across the state for Trump, and that it had traveled to 20 counties to “meet with Trump supporters, deliver free yard signs and encourage early voting.”
Clinton’s Indiana team did not reply to IBJ’s request for comment.