This installment in my series covering the 2018 Indiana Senate race will further compare and contrast the two main Republican candidates as they close in on each other with every new poll. In addition to drawing distinctions between the two candidates, this article will examine the most recent polls to attempt to gauge who is favored to win.
As I previously stated, the two heavyweight contenders in the primary are Congressmen Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, both formidable opponents for the incumbent Senator, Joe Donnelly. On paper, they appear to be similar candidates, both attempting to ride the Trump wave of hardline conservatism. However, there is more than meets the eye. GovTrack’s Political Spectrum & Legislative Leadership ranking is a useful metric which labels legislators by considering ideology and leadership. The political spectrum ideology score is determined by how legislators cosponsor bills, while leadership is ranked by a system tracking each time a legislator cosponsors bills in proportion to how many leadership points the bill’s author has. According to GovTrack’s Political Spectrum & Legislative Leadership ranking, Rokita is a “far-right Republican.” On the other hand, Messer is labeled a “centrist Republican follower,” but also rated as one of the most reliable Republican votes.
Looking at some other measures of ideology, the distinction isn’t so clear. Both voted in favor of Kate’s Law and in favor of defunding sanctuary cities. In the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, Rokita endorsed Marco Rubio and Messer endorsed Jeb! Bush, which isn’t a good sign for either of them, but at least Rokita stuck with Trump once he was the presumptive nominee. Messer can’t say as much, having counter-signaled Trump throughout the election while Rokita stood behind Trump even after the Access Hollywood tape dropped.
In my previous article, I declared Todd Rokita to be /our guy/ in this race, and I maintain that assessment, though it appears Messer is now ready to play ball with Trump so it wouldn’t be devastating if he won the primary.
The polling is where this primary gets confusing, because the numbers are all over the place. Here’s a look at some recent polls which favor Rokita:
– A GS Strategy Group for Rokita poll conducted January 6-9 found Rokita’s support at 24% and Messer’s at 8.8%.
– The Harrison County GOP straw poll in January: Todd Rokita at 25%, Luke Messer at 7%
– The Grassroots Conservatives Straw Poll in early December: Rokita at 20%, Messer at %0 (The straw poll was conducted using a point system in which each ‘yes’ vote was 1 point and each ‘no’ vote was -1 point).
However, Messer also has several significant polling victories:
– The Grassroots Conservatives straw poll on January 5th: Luke Messer, 17 points; Todd Rokita, 9 points (The straw poll was conducted using a point system in which each ‘yes’ vote was 1 point and each ‘no’ vote was -1 point).
– The January Indiana Republican Party’s U.S. Senate Straw Poll: Luke Messer, 147 votes out of 326—45% of the vote; Todd Rokita, 82 votes out of 326—25% of the vote.
– January Indiana Republican Party straw poll: Messer received 147 votes altogether and Todd Rokita received 82.
– Straw poll conducted by the Grassroots Conservatives in Bloomington, Indiana on the Dec. 28th: Luke Messer 18-1 = 17 pts, Todd Rokita, 11-2 = 9 pts (The straw poll was conducted using a point system in which each ‘yes’ vote was 1 point and each ‘no’ vote was -1 point).
With polls going for either candidate, it’s hard to say who will come out on top in the May 5th primary election, but my hopes are on the demonstrably more conservative Todd Rokita.