By Doug Ross
Beyond the headline -- Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock's 43-38 lead over incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar -- are some interesting plots and subplots on the graphs.
The big question after Tuesday, of course, is whether Democrat Joe Donnelly or the winner of the GOP primary will become the next U.S. senator from Indiana. My guess is Donnelly, and here's why.
The pollsters asked which candidate would be more likely to defeat the Democratic candidate in the fall. of Republicans, 38.2% said Mourdock and 38% Lugar -- a very close call. But independents who lean Republican favored Lugar, 42.6%, over Mourdock, 26.3%. Of Democrats, 70% picked Lugar over Mourdock (20.4%).
In the fall, there will be a lot of Democrats and independents voting. So unless the Republicans can cast enough straight-ticket ballots, Donnelly's odds are looking a lot better than they did a month ago, when the polls showed Lugar with a slight lead.
After sifting through the spreadsheets and other data from the Howey/DePauw poll on the Lugar/Mourdock race, some other facts became clear:
- ANTI-INCUMBENT: Richard Mourdock's selling points weren't so much pro-Mourdock; they were heavily anti-Dick Lugar. This is an anti-incumbent mood being reflected in the numbers: Has been in office too long, 13.5%; Time for a change, 9.3%, New blood, 5.8%; Old, 4.2%; Needs to retire, 3.7%; Lives in Virginia/Out of state, 3.2%; Believe in term limits, 2.7%; ...
- DREAM ON: Most Republicans -- 54% -- support the DREAM Act that would children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. This is an issue on which the two candidates have distinct differences. Lugar has pushed hard for the DREAM Act in the past. On Friday, Lugar asked Hispanics and other minorities to vote for him. Where have they been all along?
- REGION WEAKNESS: Support for Lugar was weakest in Northwest Indiana, which I found surprising. 30.1% of NWI Hoosiers favored Lugar and 53.1% Mourdock. Lugar's support elsewhere: Central/Northeast: 39.6%; South, 39.1%; Marion County, 42.3%.
- TURNOUT'S TURN: If voter turnout is really low this year -- as expected, with the presidential nominee already decided -- Lugar's uphill battle gets steeper. The "very conservative" and Tea Party results are almost identical: Very conservative, 62.5% Mourdock, 26% Lugar; Tea Party, 66.4%/22.1%.
- PAUL LEAN: A footnote is that of those who already voted in the Republican primary, 13.4% favored Ron Paul, 9.1% Gingrich, 4.5% Santorum, 59.3% Romney, 13.7% undecided. That high percentage for Ron Paul, who ran as a Libertarian Party candidate in the 1988 presidential race, says a lot about which way the Republican Party is leaning.
There's a lot more to digest in these polls, but this is plenty for now.
What I'd like to see is a good exit poll that shows what the true state of the Republican Party is -- how socially conservative, how fiscally conservative, etc. But that's a topic for another day.