(INDIANAPOLIS) – Longtime Indiana pollster Brian Vargus has died at 83.
Vargus taught political science at IUPUI for three decades. In 1984, he founded the university’s Public Opinion Laboratory, which crunched numbers in Indiana races for 19 years, from Bob Orr to Joe Donnelly. He was an on-air analyst for election night coverage on WIBC, and before that on WISH-TV.
Apart from his election night work, Vargus was a fixture discussing campaigns and politics on local and national news. His iron law of politics reminded handicappers, “It’s a long way to the election,” with many a favorite undone by unanticipated events.
One of Vargus’s early polling successes was in 1986, when the race for Indiana Secretary of State pitted the sons of two Hoosier political titans against each other: Rob Bowen, the son of two-term Republican Governor Otis Bowen, and Evan Bayh, son of former Democratic Senator Birch Bayh. While many observers gave Bowen the edge due to the state’s Republican tilt, Vargus declared, “If politicians were baseball cards, one Birch Bayh would be worth five Otis Bowens.” Bayh won, launching a 24-year political career as governor and senator.