Donnelly seeks middle ground
Democrat Joe Donnelly won the most expensive race in Indiana history, beating Richard Mourdock and becoming the Hoosier state's next US senator.
The congressman from northern Indiana won 50 percent of the vote, while Mourdock took 44 percent. Libertarian Andy Horning earned six percent.
Senator-elect Donnelly says the idea that he is now the head of the Democratic Party in Indiana has not sunk in yet. He says he doesn't look at it as being a member of the most exclusive club in America with 100 members. He says as the hired help he just needs to get the job done.
Donnelly says he holds Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh as models for how a senator from Indiana should function.
He stopped in at the Roost Restaurant on the north side of Indianapolis for breakfast Wednesday, just hours after he secured the election, but still felt the need to shake hands.
"If you want to earn a Hoosier's vote, you have to work for it and you have to be common sense. I think part of the message last night was, look here in Indiana, if you're all the way over here or all the way over here, that's not who we are," Donnelly said. "We kind of naturally come back to the middle. We want to solve problems. We want to make sure that our kids can have a good future. We want to create jobs. And that's not done with partisan rhetoric. It's done with building our state."
"For those of you who came tot his process from the Tea Party, who have never been involved before, I hope you know I stood and stand for the rule of law and the Constitution of the United States," said Mourdock.
The Tea Party is not as forgiving. While noting that Mourdock is a good and decent man, Indiana Tea Party's Greg Fettig says there were problems.
"They waged a pretty poor campaign, frankly. They let Joe Donnelly define him as an extremist, which he wasn't, but he didn't address that. They went far from the Tea Party right after, in fact, the night of, the primary, stayed away from us, like we were toxin, and in doing so, they lost 50 percent of the Tea Party," Fettig said.
Republican analyst Peter Rusthoven says the GOP has reason for concern.
"Democrats got in desperate trouble when the McGovernites took over their party and people in the middle were like, 'I am not going there,' and now we have the same thing with some of the Tea Party leadership," he said.
"Absent in all of this was the fact that Joe Donnelly talked about issues that mattered at the kitchen table. Look how he handled the press, in restaurants. Casual. That is the way he will be as United States Senator," said Democratic analyst Robin Winston.
For now, Donnelly says he is just concerned with trying to do what is best for Indiana, like Lugar did the last 36 years.
"Somebody said last night, those are big shoes to fill. The truth is, those shoes can't be filled. All I can do is do my best," Donnelly said.