Indiana Dem Sen. Donnelly Leads In New Poll

UNITED STATES - JULY 10: Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., is seen after the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on July 10, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is hanging onto a small but significant lead against former state Rep. Mike Braun (R), according to a new poll, good news for Democrats in a top GOP Senate target.

Donnelly leads Braun by 44 percent to 41 percent with 8 percent of voters backing Libertarian Lucy Brenton, according to a new poll of likely voters conducted by Marist University for NBC news.

In a head-to-head matchup, Donnelly’s lead grows to 49 percent to 43 percent over Braun.

The poll is the first reliable public one in months, partly because Indiana has banned automated polling. It shows Donnelly in better shape than many GOP strategists had hoped he’d be in at this point in the election. The numbers also closely track where Democrats believe the race currently stands, with Donnelly holding a small but real lead in private numbers.

Donnelly is one of four Democrats running for reelection in states Trump won that Democrats have been deeply concerned about this election cycle, and Republicans have been confident they can beat, along with Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). Democrats concede that Heitkamp has an uphill battle for reelection, but have insisted that Donnelly is ahead, McCaskill is neck-and-neck with her GOP opponent and Nelson actually has a slight lead over Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). Polls in recent days show have found both McCaskill and Nelson tied with their opponents.

If three of these four Democrats win, their party has a serious shot at winning Senate control, a scenario that was almost unthinkable a year ago since there are ten Democrats running for reelection in states Trump one and just one Republican running in a state he lost. If they lose only one incumbent and win Nevada and Arizona, where they’re viewed as slight favorites, that gets them to within one seat. Both sides also see a tied race in Tennessee, which could put them over the top.

Marist’s polling has been a bit more favorable to Democrats than some other public pollsters, and Donnelly’s lead is well within the poll’s five-point margin of error. But this is the latest public post-Labor Day poll that has some real good news for Democrats as they head into the campaign’s home stretch.

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