By Jim Ellis
Sept. 6, 2016 — Labor Day is always viewed as the traditional general election initiation benchmark for presidential campaigns, so it is important to see where the candidates stand now that we have reached this point in time.
During the Aug. 24-30 period, five national polling entities surveyed the national electorate. The five: USA Today/Suffolk University, Rasmussen Reports, Fox News, Reuters/Ipsos, and The Economist/YouGov find a margin range of Hillary Clinton topping Donald Trump by seven percentage points (USA/Suffolk: Aug. 24-29, 1,000 US likely voters, 42-35-7-4 percent, including Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein) to the Republican going up by a single point (Rasmussen Reports; Aug. 29-30: 1,000 US likely voters, 40-39-7-3 percent).
Together, the five polls produce a net average Clinton edge of 3.0 percentage points with neither candidate exceeding 42 percent support nor dropping below 35 percent.
Turning to a historical comparison, where have other presidential campaigns stood on Sept. 1, and how can previous patterns help us project what may happen in this current election?
Aug. 19, 2016 — Monmouth University (Aug. 13-16; 403 likely Indiana voters; 351 drawn from registered voters list; 52 random digit dial cell phone responses) released their new Indiana voter survey and the results report varying degrees of Republican improvement, though the polling sample may skew slightly toward the GOP.
Indiana is a very important 2016 political state. Among the 23 states that appear to be bedrock Republican for the presidential race — and must all vote for Donald Trump if he is to have any chance of winning the national election — Indiana is the only one to stray away from the party nominee in this century. In 2008, Hoosier State voters chose Barack Obama over John McCain by a 50-49 percent margin.
Therefore, with Indiana being a must-win Republican state for Trump, it likely factored into Trump’s decision to choose its governor, Mike Pence, as his vice presidential running mate.
We continue to see strong evidence that the Democratic move to replace former Rep. Baron Hill (D-Bloomington) for ex-senator and governor Evan Bayh, just hours before the ballot finalization deadline, has made the state pivotal in determining which party controls the new Senate majority. Prior to the Bayh move, it appeared that Rep. Todd Young (R-Bloomington) was cruising to a general election victory, thus keeping retiring Sen. Dan Coats’ (R) seat in the GOP column.
Aug. 3, 2016 — The national post-convention polls are quickly being reported into the public domain and, as time has progressed from the weekend into the beginning of this new week, Hillary Clinton’s advantage increases.
It’s not particularly surprising that the former Secretary of State’s post-conclave bounce would neutralize the gains that Donald Trump made the previous week when he officially accepted his nomination. In fact, the principle reason the Democrats scheduled their convention in the immediate week after the GOP national meeting was to blunt any sustained momentum the Republican nominee might develop.
In a poll taken throughout the Democratic convention week, Ipsos Reuters (July 25-29; 1,433 likely US voters) found Clinton leading Trump 40-35 percent. When Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is added, Clinton and Trump tie at 37 percent, while the newcomer had five percent.
July 18, 2016 — Donald Trump had scheduled an announcement Friday in New York to introduce who would be his vice presidential running mate. A plethora of media reports suggested that he would select Indiana Gov. Mike Pence over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The reports were right. Gov. Pence withdrew from the governor’s race before the noon CDT, for that was the established deadline when the ballots became final under Hoosier State election law. Once a vacancy is registered, the Indiana Republican Party has 30 days to name a replacement for the gubernatorial ballot, and already at least three individuals have informed the party leadership that they are candidates. Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb and representatives Susan Brooks (R-Carmel) and Todd Rokita (R-Clermont) are withdrawing from their respective campaigns, but the ones not chosen could conceivably be reinstated in order to keep their present ballot position.
Choosing Pence makes sense for Trump, at least from the standpoint that the conservative Indiana governor will help unite the Republican base. Though Trump’s GOP support numbers in national polling appears on par with Hillary Clinton’s backing within the Democratic Party universe in most polls, the bedrock Republican states, particularly in the central and Rocky Mountain regions of the country, are a slightly different story.
July 13, 2016 — The big political news on Monday saw the Democrats engineering a surprise Senate comeback. Former Indiana senator and governor, Evan Bayh, confirmed he will now enter the Hoosier State’s open federal statewide campaign. Earlier, ex-US Rep. Baron Hill (D-IN-9), who won the Democratic nomination in the May 3 Senate primary, withdrew from the race thus allowing the party leaders to name his replacement. The candidate swap had to be completed before close of business on July 15, the state deadline for ballot qualification.
It’s a strong Democratic move clearly in two ways, but the Bayh political re-entry also places him in a potentially awkward position.
First, the Democratic leaders needed to find a way to make the open Indiana race competitive. It was painfully clear that Hill, whose campaign was basically moribund, was failing to give Republican nominee Todd Young, the current 9th District congressman, a serious run, so they opted for ex-Sen. Bayh.
Second, though at the time of his exit from the political scene six years ago Democratic leaders were incensed that Bayh would not part with any of the $9-plus million he kept in his campaign account, they are now pleased to see this huge asset for their new candidate and party.