The Trafalgar Group, a polling firm that tends to work with Republican candidates and groups, put out an Indiana poll that cuts against type: It shows Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly defeating Republican businessman Mike Braun 51 percent to 39 percent. Democrats shouldn’t go jumping for joy just yet, though. The poll was a clear outlier, as previous polls had shown a tight race. Trafalgar also isn’t a gold-standard pollster.1 But there have been only two previous polls of the race, both of which were done by pollsters who had FiveThirtyEight pollster ratings of C+ or lower, so this is a contest that’s crying out for more and better polls. Given Democrats’ dominance in a set of high-quality polls in three other Midwestern states last month, it’s certainly possible that Donnelly is ahead.
But the really interesting findings from the Trafalgar poll came after they asked who respondents would vote for if Donnelly voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s recent Supreme Court nominee. Rather than giving Donnelly a bigger lead, as you might expect in a state as red as Indiana, it actually tightened the race considerably: In that scenario, Donnelly led Braun only 39.4 percent to 38.5 percent. And when voters were asked what they’d do if Donnelly voted against Kavanaugh, the Democrat took a 7-point lead, 45 percent to 38 percent. It’s interesting, though, that Donnelly’s lead shrunk from its original 12 points after voters were asked about Kavanaugh no matter how Donnelly hypothetically voted.2