TERRE HAUTE —
The last days of the Indiana governor’s race were on display Saturday in downtown Terre Haute.
John Gregg, the Democrat seeking to succeed Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, stopped at the Copper Bar on Wabash Avenue before making a visit to a Terre Haute Fire Department firehouse a block away.
Standing on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, the Sandborn Democrat and former Speaker of the Indiana House, said the governor’s race is now “a tossup.”
“We’ve come from far behind to make this race a dead heat,” Gregg said before joining party faithful inside the Wabash Avenue business. “The gap’s closed.”
Meanwhile, Gregg’s Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, continued his “Big Red Truck” tour around the state, which took him Saturday to Bloomington, Orleans and Corydon in southern Indiana.
Recent Democratic ads have attempted to link Pence, 53, to Richard Mourdock, the GOP’s candidate for U.S. Senate whose recent debate statement on rape has made him a target of criticism and a potential liability to other Republicans.
Still, a Howey Politics/DePauw University poll conducted in late October had Pence with 47 percent support compared with 40 percent for Gregg.
Contacted Saturday evening, the Pence campaign expressed optimism about its chances Tuesday and elected not to respond to Gregg’s comments.
“Everywhere we’re going, we’re seeing our positive message” is resonating with voters, said Christy Denault, communications director for Pence. The campaign plans to stick with that message, she said.
On Monday, Republican Lt. Gov. candidate Sue Ellspermann is expected in Terre Haute, Denault said. The Pence campaign had no plans for campaign stops Sunday, she said.
Other Democratic candidates joined Gregg, 58, at his Terre Haute stop Saturday, including Dave Crooks, who is running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Rep. Larry Bucshon and Jim Mann, a Democratic candidate for the District 46 seat held by Republican Bob Heaton.
In brief comments outside the Copper Bar, Gregg continued to paint his GOP opponent as an extremist.
“Hoosiers are tired of extreme government,” Gregg said, calling Pence a “tea party”-backed candidate.
Like Mourdock’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly, Gregg also made an appeal to Republicans who supported Sen. Richard Lugar in the May primary. His final push is to bring out the Democratic party faithful but also to appeal to those Republicans, he said.
“Lugar Republicans are the key to this race,” Gregg said.
To close out his campaign, Gregg said he will spend Monday on a media tour, visiting Terre Haute and points south, including Evansville and Hoosier cities and towns near Louisville, Ky. He said he plans to spend election night at a big public event in Indianapolis after beginning election day in Sandborn, his Knox County home town.
Pence will also be in Indianapolis Tuesday night, at Lucus Oil Stadium, Denault said.
After his stop Saturday in Terre Haute, Gregg was headed to Spencer, Bloomington and Indianapolis, he said, adding he has visited 72 cities and towns in the past eight days. “It’s been fun,” he said.
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org