The Senate race in Indiana was initially thought to be a sure win for Republicans. They assumed long-term Republican Senator Richard Lugar would breeze through the primaries and general election.
However, the race took a surprising turn when State Treasurer Richard Mourdock beat Senator Lugar in the primary. By running on the stance that Lugar was too moderate, Mourdock convinced conservative voters in the primary to support him.
Now, he is facing Representative Joe Donnelly in the general election. The loss of an incumbent for the Republicans has made the seat more competitive. The latest Rasmussen poll from August shows Mourdock with a 2% lead over Donnelly, with almost 15% of voters still undecided. With such a tight race, the race has taken on national importance as Democrats and Republicans vie for control of the U.S. Senate.
Why is the race so competitive?
Mourdock was seen in the primary as the more conservative candidate for the Republican Party. Although Indiana leans Republican, the general electorate is not very conservative, giving Donnelly the ability to frame Mourdock as too far right to represent the state.
Furthermore, Republicans who supported Lugar are still angry about the primary. Many of these Republicans believe the party has gone too far right, claiming that Mourdock is a clear example. Without a strong base, Mourdock is having a tough time convincing voters he is a viable candidate.
For Republicans to gain control of the Senate, they need to pick up several Democratic seats while maintaining all the current Republican seats. Since this traditionally Republican seat is now in jeopardy, the national party is pouring in funds to assist Mourdock in his campaign.
The National Republican Senate Committee is spending $650,000 on just one ad to run in the state. Mitt Romney has even come to a campaign event with Mourdock, hoping that his popularity in the state will assist Mourdock in the Senate race.
Democrats are also pouring money into the state. National Democratic groups are running ads and helping finance the campaign of Joe Donnelly. They hope to win this seat to try and maintain their slim majority in the Senate.
A True Nail-Biter
This race will come down to the wire. Since polls are hard to perform because of Indiana’s law against automated surveys, few polls will be taken in the state. The polls that are taken may have higher margins of error since they are performed with different methods. We may have to wait until election night to see if Democrats can put a dent in Republican plans to take control of the Senate.