With only four days until voters make their choices, Democratic Senate nominee U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly has built a significant lead in the race for Senate, according to a new Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll.
The poll, released this morning, shows Donnelly leading Republican State Treasurer Richard Mourdock 47 percent to 36 percent, with Libertarian Andrew Horning getting 6 percent. Another 11 percent were undecided.
The same poll shows Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Pence leading Democrat John Gregg 47 to 40 percent in the race for governor, while Libertarian Rupert Boneham was supported by 5 percent, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett leading his Democratic challenger Glenda Ritz 40 percent to 36 percent. And in the race for president, the poll showed Republican Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama in Indiana 50 percent to 41 percent.
Mourdock’s campaign released its own internal poll to challenge the Howey/DePauw poll, saying Mourdock has the lead 46 percent to 44 percent. And Brose McVey, deputy campaign manager for Mourdock, dismissed the Howey/DePauw poll, saying the pollsters “must have accidentally surveyed Illinois. Our polls show us ahead.”
The Howey/DePauw poll was taken of 800 likely voters on Oct. 28 through Oct. 30 by Republican pollster Christine Matthews of Bellwether Research and Democrat pollster Fred Yang of Garin-Hart-Yang Research and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The Mourdock poll, taken by McLaughlin & Associates, was taken of 600 likely voters on Oct. 31-Nov.1, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. That would make the Mourdock poll a statistical dead heat between him and Donnelly, while the Howey/DePauw poll shows Donnelly with a statistically significant lead.
Mourdock’s campaign tried to label the Howey/DePauw poll a Democrat poll, and their pollster John McLaughlin noted that Fred Yang polls for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
The DSCC said Yang does not poll in Indiana, and the Indiana Democratic Party said Yang has done no work for them since January 2011. Matthews, who teamed with Yang on the poll, also has polled for the Indiana Republican Party, and was the pollster for Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican.
The pollsters joined with Howey and DePauw this year for the Indiana Battleground poll. Their poll taken just before the May 8 GOP primary election showed Mourdock winning over Sen. Richard Lugar 48 percent to 38 percent. On election day, Mourdock got almost all of the undecided voters, winning 60.5 percent of the vote to 39.4 percent for Lugar.
Donnelly’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Shappell, said the poll shows “it is clear voters are rejecting Richard Mourdock's ‘my way or the highway’ approach to politics and responding to Joe's message of Hoosier common sense.”
Matthews, in her analysis of the poll said: “It’s all over but the crying.”
And Yang said: “Bottom line: Joe Donnelly is likely to win next Tuesday, and probably the only suspense will be the margin of his victory.”
Mourdock easy defeat of Lugar in the May primary ame with a cost. Some Republicans who backed Lugar have been reluctant to back Mourdock, and some independent and moderate Democrats, who have been happy to support Lugar in the past, were turned off by the more conservative Mourdock.
Mourdock’s own words have been used against him repeatedly -- particularly sound bites in which he described bipartisanship as Democrats coming to the GOP point of view and one in which he said he wanted to “inflict” his views on others. Most recently, Mourdock stirred controversy at a Senate debate when he said he opposes abortion for rape victims because that pregnancy was intended by God.
Howey reported that the poll showed that nearly nine in 10 Hoosiers were aware of Mourdock’s comments on abortion during the debate, with 40 percent saying the words made them less likely to vote for Mourdock with only 6 percent saying they made them more likely to vote for him.
And, Howey said, there was an “utter collapse (for) Mourdock among the political middle, where elections are typically won or lost, with Donnelly winning by a three to one margin among independents (51 percent to 17 percent).
Mourdock also is winning only 70 percent of Republicans.
Still, Republicans remain optimistic that Mourdock will win on the coattails of U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, who is leading in the race for governor against Democrat John Gregg, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is expected to easily carry Indiana in the presidential race against Democrat President Barack Obama.
What Mourdock won’t have is what Donnelly has: The help of another senator.
Lugar has not campaigned with Mourdock. And though he said after his primary election loss that he wanted Mourdock to win to help Republicans claim the majority in the Senate, he questioned whether Mourdock could be effective if he did not change his attitude on compromise.
Donnelly, though, has had help throughout the campaign from former Sen. Evan Bayh, a former Indiana governor who was first elected to the Senate in 1998 but decided against seeking re-election in 2010. Bayh most recently campaigned with Donnelly at an Indianapolis rally with former President Bill Clinton.
Bayh will campaign with Donnelly in the doughnut county area around Indianapolis on Monday and in northern Indiana. Donnelly will vote in South Bend on Tuesday morning and Bayh and he will then return to Indianapolis for final campaign events as they await the results.
In the race for governor, Gregg’s campaign touted the results as a sign that the race has tightened, and that Pence remains beatable.
"Today's poll shows exactly what we have known all along," said Rebecca Pearcey, Gregg for Governor Campaign Manager. "Congressman Pence's Tea Party agenda is not selling with Hoosiers. Pence was at 47% in our poll last October and after a year of trying to hide from his extreme Tea Party record with millions of dollars spent on TV ads, he has failed to gain any support."
Gregg, she said, “is picking up support every single day. The Howey/DePauw poll indicates that every undecided voter who has chosen a candidate since the September Howey/DePauw poll is now supporting John, and that Independents have moved from supporting Pence by 20 points to John winning them by 5. The more voters hear about John's plan to create jobs and strengthen the economy, the more they like him. Clearly, today's poll shows that Pence's support is stagnant."
Pence’s campaign spokeswoman, Christine Denault, said only that “everything from the polls to the early voting numbers says our positive campaign will be a winning campaign.”