Less than six weeks before Election Day, Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Richard Mourdock are in a statistical dead heat for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat.
The Howey-DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll puts Donnelly ahead with 40 percent compared to Republican Richard Mourdock’s 38 percent, which is within the 3.5 percent margin of error. The survey of 800 likely voters follows many other polls that have depicted the contest as a neck-and-neck race to replace outgoing Sen. Dick Lugar.
Close to $10 million has been spent in the race thus far, and outside groups, such as the conservative Super PAC Crossroads GPS, has spent close to $1 million this week opposing Donnelly’s candidacy.
But Donnelly campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Shappell says her candidate’s two-point edge shows Hoosier voters are rejecting Mourdock’s approach and the heavy amounts being spent to defeat him.
“This is the same man who said that the highlight of politics to him inflict his opinion on others, who has questioned the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare,” she says. “Joe Donnelly is the true bipartisan, common sense candidate in this race and he has the record to prove it.”
Since the general election, Donnelly has targeted moderate and Republican voters who supported longtime Sen. Dick Lugar, whom Mourdock defeated in the GOP primary earlier this year. And the Donnelly campaign has been running ads that call out Mourdock’s ties to the tea party.
The Mourdock campaign has recently highlighted that their candidate has a business background and can reach out beyond the GOP base as he has worked to tie himself to Indiana Republicans such as Gov. Mitch Daniels. They have attack Donnelly for supporting President Obama’s health care law and for failing to say whether he’d vote for Sen Harry Reid, D-Nv., as majority leader.
But observers have questioned if Mourdock’s makeover will work with Election Day fast approaching.
Mourdock deputy campaign manager Brose McVey says Hoosier voters are tired of the out of control government spending and that Democrats have run nasty and misleading attacks against their candidate, especially from Reid.
“Mr. Reid has been especially aggressive,” he says. “He thinks he can buy a Senate race in Indiana this fall. He needs it to remain majority leader. And we think that when Hoosier voters realize that their vote may determine if Harry Reid remains the leader of the Senate it’s going to be an advantage for us.”
Reid has been critical of Mourdock since the general election began, and his American Majority Super PAC has poured in money to support Donnelly.
Indiana is leaning Republican in both the presidential and gubernatorial race, and state lawmakers have passed legislation to cut Planned Parenthood funding and right-to-work measures. It is considered a conservative state, but that has put added pressure on Mourdock, who remains tied with Donnelly.
The Howey-DePauw survey shows President Obama trailing Governor Mitt Romney by 12-points, and Republican Congressman Mike Pence is leading Democrat John Gregg in the governor’s race by 13 percentage points.
“Voters have become aware of and are rejecting his ‘my way or the highway’ approach. That’s truly the choice here,” says Shappell. “Do we want someone who is going to work with others to move our country forward? Or do we want more gridlock, more of that Washington way, and that’s what Richard Mourdock truly represents.”