Senate candidates appeal to Lugar voters in debate

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In the last weeks of the campaign, so much may come down to the two debates for U.S. Senate.

In the first Monday night, Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Richard Mourdock appealed to disgruntled voters who supported Sen. Richard Lugar and kept to the themes they've laid out in negative TV ads.

"It is not unprincipled to be bi-partisan and to try to work with other people. You're primarily an unapologetic leader of the Tea Party movement," Donnelly said.

But Mourdock responded with the big government charge.

"The Obama-Donnelly agenda, the Harry Reid agenda that continues putting money into huge bureaucracies without accountability is in error," he said.

When asked by a voter about personal accomplishments, State Treasurer Mourdock cited the state's college savings plan.

"That's increased by ten times the number of people who are now saving for college and I worked with Democrats to do that," he said.

Donnelly looked at Mourdock and charged "you're the one who said bi-partisanship is Democrats doing what Republicans want them to do. You're the one who said you want to inflict your opinion on other people and you are also the one who said the problem with Washington is too much bi-partisanship."

Both men vie for the ex-Lugar backers looking for a new home: independents, moderate Republicans and some Democrats.

"I worked with Senator Lugar to make sure we saved over 100,00 auto jobs and he was a sterling partner and an incredible leader for our country," Donnelly said.

Mourdock responded, calling Richard Lugar, the man he beat in May's primary, "a good, honorable man who said he was going to support us as we go forward."

Libertarian Andrew Horning repeated a message.

"I could not frame my arguments as well as you are doing for me. I think the fact we see this kind of partisan bickering with every electoral cycle."

Asked later if he won over the Lugar bloc, Donnelly kept reaching out to them.

"We're appealing to every Hoosier - in the tradition of Richard Lugar," he said.

"Those Republicans are coming back home," Mourdock said. "They realize, they heard Rep. Donnelly double down on his support for Barack Obama."

Horning pleaded with voters to do something different and reject the two party choice and vote Libertarian.

Vote for me now, he said, and "you can fire me later."

The race will be one of the most expensive in Indiana history, attracting millions from out of state political action groups.

From the Associated Press

Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock is trying to distance himself from the tea party.

When Democratic opponent Joe Donnelly called him an "unapologetic tea party leader" during their debate Monday night in Indianapolis, Mourdock questioned the label and said he's run as a Republican.

Mourdock also is fighting his portrayal by Donnelly as a partisan politician. In response to a question, he says he's worked with Democrats to set up a college savings plan for Indiana parents.

Donnelly says he's worked with Republican colleagues on a veterans center in South Bend and to keep Air Force fighter jets in Fort Wayne.

Libertarian Andrew Horning also participated in the debate.

Indiana's Senate battle is one of a handful of tight races that will decide whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate.

Decision 2012 coverage

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)