TERRE HAUTE —
The battle for U.S. Senate came to Terre Haute on Wednesday, as Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly campaigned along side Evan Bayh, a Vigo County native, former governor and past U.S. senator.
Donnelly and Bayh made a stop at a busy Baesler’s Market before visiting Edgewood Grove, an east-side neighborhood where Bayh spent part of his childhood.
In his comments to reporters, Donnelly presented a bi-partisan image, saying he knows how to compromise and get things done. He invoked the name of Sen. Richard Lugar, whom Republican hopeful Richard Mourdock defeated in the May primary.
“I want to be in that same tradition as Richard Lugar and Sen. Evan Bayh,” Donnelly told reporters.
Donnelly was first elected in 2006, defeating a Republican incumbent in his northern Indiana district. He won re-election in 2008 and again in 2010, but redistricting, according to political observers, made his district lean more Republican.
Prior to Lugar’s defeat, the Cook Political Report considered the Indiana senate race a near lock for the GOP. Now that is much less certain. Recent polls put Donnelly and Mourdock about even with each receiving approximately 40 percent support. About 20 percent of voters remain undecided.
Democrats currently control the U.S. Senate, 53 to 47. Republicans believe they can take the senate in November. The Donnelly-Mourdock race could help determine whether they are right.
In his comments Wednesday, Donnelly clearly tried to appeal to Republicans, independents and Democrats. While Donnelly said Mourdock would be “divisive and partisan,” the Democrat said he would work with members of both parties and “hit the ball down the middle.” He also praised Baesler’s Market as an example of what a free economy can produce.
Reached for comment Wednesday afternoon, Christopher Conner, a Mourdock campaign spokesman, said Donnelly’s votes as a member of Congress have been squarely aligned with President Obama and “at odds with most Hoosiers.” Conner said Donnelly supported the “failed stimulus plan, higher taxes and raising the debt ceiling.”
When asked for specific policy differences with Mourdock, Donnelly noted his support for the $14 billion federal rescue of U.S. auto companies. Mourdock opposed the auto bailout and would have thrown thousands of Hoosiers out of work, Donnelly said. He also cited differences in their views over the budget plan of Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Donnelly said the Ryan budget would take too long to balance the budget, adding that federal spending must be reduced but revenues must also be increased.
Donnelly and Bayh will conclude their two-day tour of Hoosier towns and businesses today. On Wednesday they also visited Indianapolis and Speedway. Today they plan to visit businesses in Fort Wayne, Plymouth and Whiting.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.