When it comes to Democrats compiling a list of vulnerable Republican Senators, Indiana's Todd Young is unlikely to make the cut. But a close look at recent Indiana voting trends suggests Democrats have a chance to steal a seat in the Hoosier state.
In 2018, Trump was in the White House but not on the ballot. That year, the GOP statewide baseline in Indiana fell to 57.5% from 62.1% in 2014. Nearly every larger suburban Hoosier county saw a relative decline in GOP votes. Here are the top 12 Hoosier counties ranked by population with the decline in the GOP base vote noted:
St. Joseph -6.5
Johnson - 8.6
While the number of Republican votes in these counties went up in Trump's only mid-term, the Democratic turnout in these populous counties increased even more causing the GOP vote decline.
I also took a look at Trump's performance in Indiana, 2016 versus 2020. In 2016, Trump won Indiana by 19.1%. In 2020, his winning margin declined modestly to 16%. The biggest drops in Trump support came in:
Obviously the greatest decline in Trump support was in Marion County and its suburbs, including the donut counties of Hamilton, Boone, Johnson, Hendricks and Hancock.
In short, the way the Democrats win Todd Young's seat in the Senate is for rural turnout to return to its pre-Trumpian levels while Democratic turnout in the more populous counties remains juiced. It would also help if the Democrats could recruit a more moderate candidate who could get GOP crossover vote living in the Indianapolis' suburbs.
Is that possible? Certainly. I am not convinced rural voters will continue going to the polls en masse to vote for Republicans when Trump is neither on the ticket or in the White House. I think it is a bit more likely that the Democrats will continue with higher turnout post-Trump, at least for awhile.
Of course, it all depends on the Democrats recruiting a top notch U.S. Senate candidate to oppose Young. I'm just not sure the party will do that. Witness the debacle in 2020 with its gubernatorial nominee, Woody Myers.
OOP's short takes:
- For the record, let me just reiterate it is a myth that Trump was an expert at getting Democratic crossover. In 2016, his crossover vote was even with Hillary Clinton's. In 2020, Biden had a lot more Republicans voting for him than there were Democrats voting for Trump.
- Regarding my 2016 v. 2020 Trump comparison, there is one county whose numbers seemed so far off that I had to review them several times to make sure I didn't make a mistake. Five of Indianapolis' seven donut counties are in the top 7 in the the decline of the Trump vote, and in a sixth, Shelby County, the Trump vote only increased by .7%. But the final donut county, Morgan, was the No. 1 county for an increase in Trump vote. Trump's 38.5% victory margin in Morgan County in 2016 increased to 54.6% in 2020. That 16.1 point improvement in Morgan County is nearly double the next closest county.
- Part of the reason for reason for the aberration seems to be that Morgan County has a large number of Libertarian-leaning voters who elevated its gubernatorial nominee Donald Rainwater to second place with 22.8% of the vote, but those voters crossed over to vote for Trump instead of the Libertarian presidential nominee who only received 2.4% of the vote in Morgan County. Of course, I'm baffled why any Libertarian would support Trump who seems completely antithetical to libertarian principles.