“I’m just Joe,” is how Donnelly, 57, described himself during the first debate, urging voters to cast aside political party labels and embrace him as the bipartisan-loving candidate. The South Bend congressman is more conservative than some of his Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill: He’s opposed to abortion, supports gun rights and thinks a balanced budget amendment is a good idea.
Mourdock, 61, beat Lugar by 20 points in the May primary by convincing Republican voters that the 80-year-old senator had compromised too often and too much with the other side. After his primary win, Mourdock, of Darmstadt, said “bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view.”
Horning, the Libertarian, calls both men “cogs in the machine” of a corrupt federal government.
Both Mourdock and Donnelly have tried to woo “Lugar Republicans” – GOP voters who were unhappy with Mourdock for Lugar’s loss. Both candidates have taken to calling Lugar an American hero.
A pro-Mourdock campaign flyer recently put out by a super PAC made it look like Lugar was supporting Mourdock. In a strongly worded response, a Lugar spokesman made it clear that Lugar had no plans to campaign for Mourdock. But he wasn’t backing Donnelly either.
Brian Howey, publisher of Howey Politics Indiana, said the race might go down to the wire, as voters split their tickets.
Indiana voters have a history of doing so, Howey said. In 2008, Indiana went blue in the presidential race to help put Barack Obama in the White House, while re-electing Republican Mitch Daniels to a second term. In 2004, Indiana supported Republican George W. Bush over John Kerry by more than 20 points while voting to send Democrat Evan Bayh back to the U.S. Senate with a big vote margin. When Indiana voters went for Bush in a big way in 2000, they also elected Democrat Frank O’Bannon as governor.
• Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.