The tight race has captured the attention of national political watchers because the outcome is significant beyond Indiana. It’s one of a handful of races across the U.S. that could tip the balance of power in the Senate from Democratic to Republican.
Republicans would need to pick up four new seats and hang onto to all their current seats to win control of the Senate next year – and Indiana is one of the seats the party can’t afford to lose.
That’s why so much money is flooding into the state. Spending on the race had topped $20 million by the third week of October, with huge chunks of that coming from national Republican and Democratic organizations and so-called “super PACs” – political action committees that are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amount of money on political advertising.
Any Hoosier with a TV likely already knows that. According to data compiled by Kantar Media’s CMAG – a non-partisan tracker of media ads – more than 22,000 political ads related to the Senate race aired between mid-July to mid-October. And more are on their way.
“This is first time we’ve seen really large amounts of money from outside forces getting spent here,” said Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Downs said all that outside money had escalated an already volatile race between Donnelly, a three-term congressman, and Mourdock, the state treasurer. And it’s resulting in some campaign ad attacks that are more over-the-top than what Hoosiers may be used to seeing, he said.
“The job of these super PACs is to win,” Downs said.
On the campaign trail, Donnelly and Mourdock have each tried to define themselves as nice guys who are independent thinkers.