ALBION — If people in Noble County are disgruntled with how Gov. Eric Holcomb is handling COVID-19, they didn’t really show it at the polls.
Holcomb, who won re-election on Tuesday to a second term as governor, actually did better in 2020 than he did in 2016’s election bid.
In Tuesday’s election, Holcomb captured 65.48% of Noble County’s vote. That was slightly better than he did in 2016, when he only received 63.01% of the vote.
Some Hoosiers have been vocal about their displeasure with Holcomb’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state, disagreeing with the decision to shut down most of the state in March and April and chafing at Holcomb’s executive order mandating face coverings be worn in public places, even though the order has no enforcement mechanism in it.
So how did Holcomb get more support this election?
Based on Tuesday’s election results, Holcomb likely has Democrats to thank for his better margin.
Holcomb was matched up against Democrat Dr. Woody Myers, a former Indiana State Health Commissioner, and Libertarian Donald Rainwater, a third-party candidate who garnered immediate interest around the state for forcefully condemning the state shutdown and mask mandate from Holcomb.
Expectations were that Rainwater would pull votes away from Holcomb mostly from the far right of the political spectrum, from voters who felt the governor was giving COVID-19 too much credence. Rainwater also had promoted far-right tax policies, such as eliminating the state income tax and eliminating property taxes on households.
Rainwater likely wouldn’t have attracted as many followers from the political left, which has generally viewed COVID-19 as more of a threat than the political right. As a Libertarian, however, Rainwater might have interested some liberal voters with his pledge to legalize marijuana use in Indiana, if elected.
On Tuesday, Rainwater pulled 3,353 votes in Noble County, good enough for 17.57% of the total votes in the gubernatorial race.
So how did Holcomb outperform his 2016 campaign?
The first factor is that turnout was overall higher in 2020 compared to 2016 — 65% compared to 56% — and with Noble County’s long history of swinging heavily Republican, it’s likely more overall votes also meant more votes for Holcomb and the GOP.
But a second factor at play was that Holcomb picked up votes from people who otherwise voted Democrat.
Myers finished third in the gubernatorial race in Noble County, getting 3,237 votes, just 16.96% of the vote.
That percentage is a far under-performance from 2016, when John Gregg received 33.15% of the votes in the governor’s race in Noble County.
Looking at other partisan races on the ballot, it’s clear that Democrats jumped ship on the governor ticket to support Holcomb.
Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Joe Biden 74-24 in Noble County; Republican Todd Rokita topped Democrat Jonathan Weinzapfel for attorney general 74-26, and Republican Jim Banks won the 3rd District congressional race 77-23 over Democrat Chip Coldiron.
So in an election where Democrats were getting about 25% of the votes in other races, the 17% in the gubernatorial race showed that the vastly outnumbered left-leaning voters abandoned Myers for one of the other two candidates, with Holcomb being a likely beneficiary of that one-race exodus.
Although full statewide results for Indiana aren’t available yet as larger urban areas like Fort Wayne are still counting absentee ballots, the trend holds up for what is in — Holcomb is overperforming and Myers is underperforming 2016 shares.
Holcomb won statewide by a 51-45 margin over Gregg in 2016. Based on partial results on Wednesday, Holcomb’s share was hovering in the high 50% range, while Myers was sitting around 30% and Rainwater at around 12%.
Even if every Libertarian voter was a turncoat from the Democratic party, which is unlikely, Holcomb still appears to have done better this year than four years ago.
Indiana’s governor, therefore, heads into his second four years with seemingly broad bipartisan support from Hoosiers.