The Current State of the Indiana
and Pennsylvania Senate Races

Indiana Senate

With the Indiana Senate seat now officially open for just about a week, many elected officials from both parties report themselves to be in a “considering phase” about entering the statewide race.

Three members of the state delegation immediately indicated they will not run for Senate, however. Representatives Luke Messer (R-IN-6), Andre Carson (D-IN-7) and Larry Bucshon (R-IN-8) said publicly that they will not pursue a statewide bid, presumably to remain in the House.

On the other hand, representatives Jackie Walorski (R-IN-2), Marlin Stutzman (R-IN-3), Todd Rokita (R-IN-4), Susan Brooks (R-IN-5) and Todd Young (R-IN-9) all confirm they are at least thinking about running. Veteran Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN-1) has not made any public statement about the race, but is expected to remain in the House.

Of this group of congressional Republicans, Rep. Stutzman is most likely to run since he challenged Coats in the 2010 Republican primary before being elected to the House. It would not be surprising, however, to see several House members enter the race, even though they would be relinquishing congressional seats they virtually just won. All of the Hoosier State Republican representatives were elected in 2010 or later.

Other potential candidates include Coats’ state director, Eric Holcomb, who is expected to announce early next week. He is a former Indiana Republican Party chairman and well connected politically throughout the state. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Attorney General Greg Zoeller are two more possibilities.

On the Democratic side, former senator and Gov. Evan Bayh continues to say he’s not planning to run, all the while not completely ruling it out, either. Former representatives Baron Hill (D-IN-9) and Brad Ellsworth (D-IN-8) are also reported to be considering the race. Both have previously run unsuccessfully for the seat, each falling to Sen. Coats but in different years.

Pennsylvania Senate

Franklin & Marshall College of Lancaster, Pa., just released a new poll of the Keystone State electorate (March 17-23; 597 registered Pennsylvania voters) pertaining to their 2016 US Senate race. Here, first-term Sen. Pat Toomey (R) will face a difficult re-election battle before a presidential year increased turnout. In 2010, he defeated then-Rep. Joe Sestak (D) by a 51-49 percent margin.

According to this early data, Toomey would lead Sestak 34-29 percent in a ballot test that reveals a very high undecided factor (37 percent).

Toomey’s favorability ratio is 30:23 percent, much better than one would predict when seeing that only 31 percent of those polled believe he is doing an “excellent” or “good” job as the state’s junior US senator. President Obama also falls into negative job approval territory, scoring only a 41:51 percent ratio.

For ex-Rep. Sestak, only 22 percent of the respondents expressed an opinion of him, 15:7 percent positive to negative. A full 63 percent reported not having enough information to state an impression.

But, Sestak has bigger problems than a lack of statewide name identification. Because of poor relations with the Democratic Party establishment, the state leaders have been open about wanting to replace him as their senatorial nominee. Virtually advertising for a new candidate, several people have come forward to express interest, especially Philadelphia state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D). It remains to be seen if Sestak can be denied re-nomination, but his road in the primary will be anything but smooth.

In the meantime, Sen. Toomey continues to build for re-election. This will be one of the premier campaigns of the 2016 US Senate cycle.

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