By MELISSA CONRAD
INDIANAPOLIS — When a political contest becomes a “toss-up” like the Indiana Senate race between Rep. Joe Donnelly, D, and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, R, it’s anyone’s game to win. On Friday, 4,000 Democrat’s welcomed their star center former President Bill Clinton to the North Central High School gymnasium for the “Hoosier Common Sense Rally.”
Clinton brought his “A” game to thunderous applause and foot-stomping enthusiasm in support of Donnelly and John Gregg, the Democrat candidate for governor.
“This is what I know,” said Clinton, “Everywhere in the world and everywhere in America that people are doing well, it’s because government and business work together …”
Clinton opened and closed with the belief that, “Cooperation and honorable compromise work better than constant conflict – they just work better. This deal that’s being presented to us by the group that now controls the Republican Party doesn’t work very well. Every time they’ve run in out in the last 20 years it hasn’t worked very well and I frankly resent the fact that it’s called conservative because it’s not. I promise you, the four people on this stage, we are way more fiscally conservative than the people they’ve got running for president, vice president …” continued Clinton as the applause and cheers drowned him out briefly. Clinton stood with former Senator Evan Bayh, Donnelly and Gregg.
Clinton had tough words for Donnelly’s opponent, treasurer Richard Mourdock who filed a lawsuit to stop auto industry restructuring that nearly cost thousands of auto workers their job in Indiana. Clinton was critical of Gregg’s opponent Mike Pence for not supporting the auto industry and challenged Mourdock’s questioning the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare. Clinton spent several minutes on the importance of changes made to Federal student loans and also questioned Pence and Mourdock for again challenging these changes.
Donnelly and Mourdock are scheduled to face each other in debate Monday, as well as Oct. 23, the latter to take place at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany.
Hoosier Democrats began assembling with free tickets for the 10:30 a.m. start to welcome their fiery former president and state candidates. Also speaking were Indianapolis City-County Councilor Maggie Lewis, Lt. Gov. candidate Vi Simpson and Congressman Andre Carson. Fifth district congressional candidate Scott Reske led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Bill Clinton’s presence in Indiana is a sign that much may still be undecided here. In a state where splitting tickets in a vote is nothing out of the ordinary and solid red turned blue in 2008, the home stretch to election day has begun and Democrats called for common sense and working to get folks out voting.
Clinton stole the show at the Democratic Party's national convention and his presence Friday in Indiana was a notable encore. A new Pew Research Center poll found that 29 percent of those surveyed said Clinton's convention speech was the highlight. A Gallup poll released in early September showed Clinton was viewed favorably by 69 percent of Americans, including 43 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of independents.
Speaker Friday challenged those attending to reach out to their neighbors, friends co-workers and others and to take the time to talk with them about how crucial this election and each vote is.
Clinton hammered on Donnelly’s opponent for criticism of Senator Lugar about working with the president on national security calling it more partisanship. “Do you really think it’s a Republican or Democratic issue whether Osama bin Laden and all the leadership of Al Qaeda is gone now or not?” Clinton said. “I thought it was an American issue.”
“What is this idea that it’s my way or the highway? I was raised to believe that nobody’s right all the time,” said Clinton.
Joe Donnelly met with media at 9:30 a.m. to preview the Hoosier Common Sense Rally saying early voting numbers have exceeded 2008 levels and he sees that as a good sign. What he says he also sees as positive and what this election is about are the 5,000 workers heading to their jobs at a transmission plant in Kokomo that he says his opponent didn’t support.
Carson added to the discussion saying, “This election is arguably the most important election in your and my lifetime. It’s time for Hoosier common sense. It’s time for Hoosier problem solving. The calculation for us is very simple. American cannot be forgotten. American will not be forgotten. When we work together to ensure that the worst practices on Wall Street never again happen, we all gain from that,”
All eyes appear to be shifting to Indiana after Brian Howey recently reported that Indiana Republicans remain in danger of losing a Senate seat, as nominee Richard Mourdock trails Democrat Joe Donnelly 40 to 38% in the latest Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll. The bipartisan poll was conducted by Republican Christine Matthews of Bellwether Research and Democrat Fred Yang of Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group and was done with DePauw University’s Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media and Brian Howey, publisher of Howey Politics Indiana.
The latest Howey/DePauw Poll shows Pence holding a 13 point lead over Democrat John Gregg in the race for Indiana governor (47% to 34%), and Republican Mitt Romney up 52% to 40% over Democratic President Barack Obama, who carried Indiana -- which typically votes Republican in presidential races -- in 2008.
The poll also raised eyebrows with Mourdock’s favorable/unfavorable at 26/32%, compared to 24/21% for Donnelly. Another poll is planned this month.
Gregg and Pence will appear on Oct. 17 at Notre Dame University for the second of three debates.
On Thursday, Donnelly’s campaign for U.S. Senate responded to Mourdock’s effort to label his lawsuit to liquidate Chrysler ending more than 100,000 Hoosier jobs as anything other than a partisan power grab.
“Richard Mourdock has stooped to a new low: lying about the fact that he sued to receive less money for Hoosier police officers and teachers than he would have received in settlement,” said Elizabeth Shappell, communications director. “Richard Mourdock pursued the lawsuit against Chrysler to increase his own TEA Party credentials, not because he had Indiana’s best interests in mind. He spent over $2 million of our taxpayer funds on New York lawyers and a lawsuit that lost at every level to try to kill over 100,000 Hoosier jobs, all the while knowing that it was a financial loser even if he succeeded. The only candidate in this race who stood up for and will continue to fight for Indiana workers is Joe Donnelly.”
National media attention was also on Friday’s rally as the outcome of the Donnelly and Mourdock race could determine who holds the Senate majority.
Early voting is already underway prior to Election Day Nov. 6 and the countdown clock has begun.