Is Young in trouble? Unlikely, but a poll makes waves

Could U.S. Sen. Todd Young be in trouble in his reelection bid? If so, it would be one of the biggest political upsets Indiana has ever seen.

Two major political prognosticators — Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball — have called the seat uncompetitive and labeled it either a solid or safe Republican win.

Young is seeking a second six-year Senate term and is sitting on almost $7 million in cash. His opponent, Democrat Tom McDermott, had $165,000 in the most recent reporting period.

But a new poll is at least making the race interesting. The Change Research survey conducted online in late August has Young leading with 45% of the voters surveyed and McDermott within the margin of error at 42%.

The poll was commissioned by McDermott and was first reported by the Indianapolis Star.

“Change Research is a Democrat outfit out of California, this ‘poll’ was strictly online to skew the results, and they did not call, contact, or screen any voters through cell phones or landlines like Gallup or other trusted polling companies,” Brian Gamache, spokesman for Young’s campaign, told the Star. “This is an old campaign dirty trick.”

The Indiana Democratic Party almost immediately used the poll in a fundraising pitch, saying “Hoosiers are fed up with two-faced politicians who say one thing in Indiana but vote another way in Washington. And since arriving to Congress 12 years ago, Todd Young has become a career politician who turned his back on veterans, supported banning all forms of abortion, and refused to do a thing on issues he’s campaigned on since 2010 – like immigration. Even members of his own party can’t stand him.”

Young’s camp criticizes the methodology, and on this week’s Indiana Week in Review episode, Republican consultant Jennifer Hallowell pointed out Change Research doesn’t have a good track record in Indiana. She noted in 2020 its gubernatorial poll was off by 18 percentage points.

The poll also ranked favorability for former president Donald Trump — 44% favorable and 49% unfavorable. That seems a little soft for reliably Republican Indiana. In comparison, Young’s favorability is underwater – 26% favorable and 36% unfavorable.

Interestingly, McDermott might have even led the poll if Libertarian candidate James Sceniak had been included. That’s because traditionally Libertarians pull from the Republican side of the political spectrum.

Young last week was the first to go up with television ads. Hoosiers reported seeing them while watching Hulu and other streaming services, though not yet on broadcast television. Apparently, I need to watch “What We Do in The Shadows” — a vampire parody — if I want to see it.

Thankfully, an astute reader sent it along. The ad, interestingly, doesn’t mention that Young is a Republican or an incumbent. Instead it focuses heavily on his military history.

“Duty. Honor. Commitment. Courage,” are the words the ad says are Young’s way of life. It mentions he graduated from the Naval Academy, includes video of him running in a Marines shirt and says he is a Marine Corps Captain.

“His mission now? Making our country safer and stronger.”

It ends by calling him a fighter, a Hoosier and a Marine.

This appears to be an introductory ad setting the stage for his full campaign. But we look forward to when he talks about his actual record in the U.S. Senate.

Niki Kelly is editor-in-chief of indianacapitalchronicle.com, where this commentary first appeared. She has covered Indiana politics and the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 for publications including the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Send comments to [email protected]