Down-ballot candidates face unconventional political landscape

In a presidential election cycle dominated by strong rhetoric and disliked candidates, divisive presidential politics have already left a legacy: a nonconventional landscape for down-ballot candidates. This political landscape has left many asking what the impact of potential crossover voters in the presidential race may have on the down-ballot races in Indiana.

In an interview with the Rover, Lynn Fitzpatrick of the Saint Joseph County Republican Party categorized potential crossover voters into two main groups: blue-collar Democrats and new voters. Regarding the first group, Fitzpatrick said there are “some blue-collar Democrats that … are going to cross over and vote for Trump.” However, she was quick to note that the crossover from blue-collar Democrats may indeed be limited to the presidential race.

Fitzpatrick suggested that Republicans would see the greatest benefit from new voters: “There are people that haven’t participated in the political system for some time, and I think they’re going to participate this time. And, when they do, if they are leaning Trump, which most … are, then I think that will benefit the Republican ticket.”

While the impact of crossover voters will not be seen until Election Day, the political landscape in Indiana has already shifted in a definitive way as both the Republican and Democratic parties have replaced a candidate for state or federal office since their respective state conventions.             

The first place Hoosiers will find a new candidate on their ballot is in the race for U.S. Senate. On July 11, Democratic candidate Baron Hill dropped out, suggesting that special interests were bound to interfere with his race. Quickly after Hill’s withdrawal, former Indiana governor and U.S. Senator Evan Bayh announced that he intended to enter the race against Representative Todd Young.

While he may be relatively new to the 2016 race, Evan Bayh is no stranger to Indiana politics. Regarding the political power of the Bayh name in Indiana, Lynn Fitzpatrick told the Rover that “[Bayh] was a name that had a lot of positive perceptions related with it in the past.”

According to Fitzpatrick, however, the name may have lost its power.

“I think it is pretty clear to people that Evan Bayh has not been a true Indiana Hoosier for a long time and, of course, he has benefitted from the corruption in Washington,” she continued.

Recent polls have shown the race for U.S. Senate tightening, with Bayh’s lead shrinking from approximately 20 points upon his announcement to a close 4% lead in a recent WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll.

The Senate race is not the only place Hoosiers will see a new candidate. On July 15, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump selected Governor Mike Pence of Indiana to run alongside him as Vice President. This announcement came at the eleventh hour for Pence, who was required to withdraw his name from the governor’s race by noon that same day. After caucusing by the Indiana Republican Party, Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb replaced Pence on the ballot, with Auditor of State Suzanne Crouch as his running mate.

The timing of this decision has put Holcomb at a twelve-week disadvantage to his opponent, Democrat John Gregg, who has been making his case to voters since he won the Democratic primary on May 3. To this point, Fitzpatrick told the Rover, “Of course we’ve had short notice here for him to get everything off the ground.” However, Fitzpatrick believes Holcomb is up to the task and is able to connect to voters in a way that can lead him to victory, saying,“I think the only thing that has to happen is more people have to see him and meet him.”

In addition to making the connections Fitzpatrick described, Holcomb has taken advantage of Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity among Hoosiers, airing ads hitting Gregg for his endorsement of Clinton. Holcomb has also focused on Gregg’s record in the Indiana State House, which he is attacking as inefficient and bureaucratic.

Gregg has responded in kind by working to tie Holcomb to Pence, which can be seen in press statements. Emblematic of this spirit is a statement by Gregg’s campaign manager, Tim Henderson. In regards to Holcomb, Henderson said, “Holcomb brings nothing new to the table. He’s just a taller version of Mike Pence and will continue the same failed economic policies.”

According to the WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll conducted earlier this month, Gregg leads Holcomb 40% to 35%, with 6% of the polled Hoosiers selecting Libertarian Rex Bell.

Representatives from the Saint Joseph County Democratic Party were contacted, but the Rover did not receive a response in time for publication.

Adam Battalio is a junior studying economics and constitutional studies. You can contact him at