Spending reaches record levels in Indiana Senate race

Richard Mourdock

Supporters are spending millions of dollars on the U.S. Senate race in Indiana, which remains too close to call.

Republicans need to gain four seats to take control of the Senate, but at the same time, can't afford to lose any seats. That makes the race between Democrat Joe Donnelly and Republican Richard Mourdock important to both parties.

The race between Donnelly and Mourdock is proving to be an expensive one. Mourdock and the Super PACs that support him have spent $9.2 million, counting his primary election spending. Donnelly and the Super PACs on his side have countered with $5.5 million. That $14.7 million total tops $18 million when you add in the money Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) and his supporters spent during the primary election.

So how is this spending stacking up historically?

"Probably the most expensive Senate race ever, easily, because not only is there a lot of money spent by their campaigns, but they have a lot of people spending money independently to influence this race," said Democratic analyst Robin Winston.

"The Democratic Senatorial Committee is really interested in this campaign. They are saying, 'Oh, look, we really have a chance,' and they really do have a chance here," said Republican analyst Peter Rusthoven.

So the Super PACs swoop in. But Super PACs and all, this is not the most expensive political campaign in state history. That still belongs to the 2004 gubernatorial race between Republican challenger Mitch Daniels and Democratic incumbent Joe Kernan. Daniels raised $16.7 million for that race, while Kernan amassed $14.4 million for a whopping $31.1 million.

But there are still 30 days to go.

"If this race really looks competitive come mid-October, I would have to think they would both have to flood Indiana with money. The later we get in the calendar, the fewer campaigns there are that are truly competitive, so if you have one that is, that is when the big money really starts pouring in," said Indianapolis Star columnist Matt Tully.

For the players outside the state, it is less about the candidates and more about the big picture.

"Whether they support Joe Donnelly or Richard Mourdock is beside the point. This is about, for a lot of people, the majority of the Senate," Tully said.

So the last 30 days will be interesting. Dropping $10 million in 30 days seems improbable, but in this age of the Super PACs, not impossible.

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