By TOM LoBIANCO
The Associated Press
%reldate(2012-11-06T17:07:32 <B>Eds: Adds photos. Updates with Hamilton County reporting big voter turnout, long lines and waits to vote of up to two hours; Will be updated. With AP Photos.<P>
FISHERS, Ind. (AP) — Indiana Republicans are looking to win up and down the ballot Tuesday, but their efforts to deepen the red hue of the “Crossroads of America” might fall short of the sweeping victories they racked up in 2010.
One big exception could be the U.S. Senate battle. A recent poll has Democrat Joe Donnelly leading Republican Richard Mourdock after the latter’s comments that a pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended.”
However, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is expected to put the state back in the Republican column, perhaps by double digits, four years after President Barack Obama gave Democrats their first Indiana presidential victory since 1964.
Voters in the Indianapolis metropolitan area reported long lines and waits of up to two hours at polling places as large numbers of residents turned out to vote.
In Hamilton County, a heavily populated Indianapolis suburb that’s a Republican stronghold, residents had to wait two hours to vote at some of the county’s 150 polling stations, said County Election Administrator Kathy Richardson.
A programming glitch that affected voting machines in about half of the county’s polling sites delayed Tuesday’s start of voting about 20 minutes. But Richardson attributed the long lines that formed later to the big voter turnout.
“We didn’t get off to a good start, but when you have two-hour lines and you only had a 20-minute delay, the delay wasn’t the problem,” she said. “The volume of people who have come to the polls is what’s causing the issue.”
Joe Reece, a 34-year-old Indianapolis software salesman, was among about 20 people waiting in line before the polls opened at 6 a.m. EST at First Meridian Heights Presbyterian Church on the city’s north side.
Reece said he voted for Romney based strictly on the GOP candidate’s ideas for improving the economy.
“I feel like he’s got the background and the acumen to be able to help us reverse course quickly,” Reece said.
Bernadette Hatcher, 42, went to vote after finishing her overnight shift at a warehouse. She said she voted for Obama because she thinks he needs more time to pursue his initiatives.
“No one can correct everything in four years. Especially the economy, it’s not going to happen overnight,” Hatcher said.
Republicans appear poised to hold the governor’s office for another four years, as Gov. Mitch Daniels departs because of term limits, and they hope to build on their majority in the state House of Representatives, which they retook from Democrats in 2010.
Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb said he’s counting on a good showing Tuesday but is still fighting as though Democrats could make gains.
“We want to make sure we don’t put the cart in front of the horse,” Holcomb said. “I suspect it’s going to be a good night for Republicans and a good night for Hoosier taxpayers.”
Indiana’s Senate battle appears likely to be the GOP’s most worrisome race and could draw a distinction between Hoosiers’ brand of conservatism and that of the tea party movement.
The race, which had been a statistical dead heat, abruptly shifted when Mourdock, a tea party-backed Republican state treasurer, said during a televised Oct. 23 debate that pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended.” Democrats have pounced on the comments, using them to shore up their arguments that Mourdock holds extremist views.
Mourdock, who has criticized Donnelly for votes on issues ranging from the auto industry bailouts to the federal health care overhaul, has tried to move past the furor over the comments even as Democrats have worked to keep them front and center of the final days of the campaign.
“I’m feeling fantastic. All reports from around the state are very positive as far as voter turnout. Republicans are very excited,” Mourdock said Monday while greeting diners at the First Watch Restaurant in Indianapolis.
“We’re thrilled at the message of getting this economy turned around and being the 51st vote to repeal Obamacare,” he said.
Despite Friday’s Howey/DePauw poll that showed him up 11 percentage points, Donnelly took a more cautious approach during an appearance Monday with former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh and congressional candidate Scott Reske at a Democratic campaign office in Fishers.
Donnelly beamed as Bayh sang his praises, but he demurred when asked how confident he was of victory.
“I run every race like I’m 10 points behind,” he said.
Democrats hope that isn’t the outcome.
Obama’s slim victory over John McCain in 2008 now appears to have been a fluke more than a sea change. Romney appears poised for a potential double-digit victory.
The lack of national attention has played out in early voting, which was down from 2008. The Indiana secretary of state’s office reported that more than 460,000 people had voted across the state as of Friday, with the heaviest turnouts in urban Marion and Lake counties. That compares with about 516,000 who had voted by the Friday before Election Day in 2008.