INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch continued on their historic reelection arc as the Indiana Republican ticket is poised to report a year-end balance of $8.35 million in combined funds.
Not only will these be unprecedented fundraising totals, they come with a dearth of correspondingly large donations from the three current Democratic gubernatorial campaigns. The campaigns of Dr. Woody Myers, State Sen. Eddie Melton and businessman Josh Owens have reported only one CFA-11 contributions over $10,000 as of this writing, a $22,500 donation from Owens to his own campaign filed on Dec. 12.
In 2011 for the 2012 open gubernatorial seat, Democrat John Gregg had posted 11 CFA-11 contributions totaling $174,999. In 2015, Gregg had posted 63 such contributions totaling $2.069 million. And in the 2007 ramp-up to challenge Gov. Mitch Daniels, Jim Schellinger had posted 58 CFA-11 contributions totaling $1.311 million, while eventual nominee Jill Long Thompson had posted eight CFA-11 contributions of $285,000. Those two Democrats combined for a total of $1.596 million. Schellinger now serves as Gov. Holcomb’s commerce secretary.
Eric Holcomb for Indiana, Friends of Suzanne Crouch and the Indiana Republican Party have a combined $8.15 million cash-on-hand. “This number may go higher before we close the books on 2019,” Kyle Hupfer, Republican chairman and Holcomb campaign manager, told Howey Politics Indiana earlier this month. “This is $500,000 more than the 2007 record and $1.2 million more than 2015.”
Lt. Gov. Crouch transferred a historic $1 million from her campaign account into the Eric Holcomb for Indiana account, the first time a lieutenant governor in Indiana history has both raised that much and transferred that much.
Expected year-end totals will include $7 million for Eric Holcomb for Indiana at $7 million; $250,000 for Friends of Suzanne Crouch; and $1 million for the Indiana Republican Party.
That contrasts with end of year 2015 when Mike Pence for Indiana posted $6.767 million, Sue Ellspermann for Lieutenant Governor had $163,205.80; and the Indiana Republican Party posted $657,941.68 for a total of $6,946,862.72. At end of year 2007, Gov. Mitch Daniels’ Mitch for Governor Committee posted $6,769,498.06; Skillman for Indiana had $225,394.69, and the Indiana Republican Party had $657,941.68 for a total of $7,652,834.43.
Of the Holcomb totals, 13 previous Democratic CFA-11 donors had made what Hupfer described as “significant donations.”
Hupfer said that internal GOP polling from Eric Holcomb for Indiana shows the governor’s job approval north of 60%, with strong numbers across ideological, geographic and racial demographics. “For instance, his approval rating is at an impressive 68% in Marion County, an equally impressive 67% in the donut counties, a solid 61% in the Chicago DMA, and 45% of self-identified Democrats approve of his job performance. That internal poll was conducted June 16-18, 2019, and surveyed 600 likely 2020 General Election voters with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent.
Ball State University’s annual Hoosier Survey, released last month, confirms Gov. Holcomb maintains a high approval rating. Over half of Hoosiers surveyed approve of the job he’s doing, with only 13% disapproving. Furthermore, a full 54% of Hoosiers say Indiana is headed in the right direction, with only 34% saying we are on the wrong track. In this polarized political environment, the strength and consistency of the governor’s job approval rating, and the right direction numbers, are reflective of an appreciation Hoosiers have for Gov. Holcomb and Indiana Republicans.
A Morning Consult July survey put Holcomb’s approval at 51%, disapproval at 23%, while 26% expressed no opinion.
To put these polls in perspective, none of the three Democratic candidates would likely crack 5% in name ID in a future poll. There is a direct correlation between TV, radio, newspaper and social media advertising and polling results and at this point, none of the Democrats have made such an effort.
Hupfer described his party and reelect campaign hitting on all cylinders. “We’re obviously not taking anything for granted and we’re going to keep our foot on the gas through next November’s election. We’ve certainly continued on the upward trajectory since he was elected. The governor was as active as any I’ve ever seen in mayoral races. He took us from plus seven to plus 23 Republican mayors across the state.
“The other historic show of strength is to have the ballot qualification signatures in hand in October,” Hupfer continued. “To have those in hand on Oct. 1 is really unheard of. Our ground game infrastructure is only getting stronger. It got stronger during the Braun Senate race with state party in charge of the ground game; we were able to flex that for mayoral races and that will continue. Probably by mid- to late-January we’ll announce our entire statewide team with county coordinators in every county, we’ll have our five regional directors in place; we already have four of them. We are already 75 to 80% staffed. The Congress of Counties in January will be the beginning of our ground game.”
Is this to say that Gov. Holcomb is unbeatable? No. Look no further than the 16,000 teachers who showed up at the Indiana Statehouse on Nov. 19’s pay increase rally. Teachers led the way to the 2012 Glenda Ritz upset of Republican Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Bennett despite the incumbent’s huge money lead, so it can be done. But the eventual Democratic is likely going to start with about an $8 million disadvantage, unless the wealthy Myers or Owens decide to partially self-fund their campaigns.
The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.