The U.S. Senate race is the big one to watch in Indiana on Election Night. It is by far getting the most attention and not just from Hoosiers.
When State Treasurer Richard Mourdock upset Senator Richard Lugar in the May primary, Democrats saw an opportunity for U.S. Representative Joe Donnelly.
While pundits gave Mourdock the edge in right-leaning Indiana, polls showed a statistical dead heat. The race quickly became one of most-watched in the country. It was one of six Senate races thought to hang in the balance, with the outcome possibly determining control of the Senate.
Outside groups began pouring millions of dollars into both campaigns, flooding the airwaves with political ads. Those groups spent $8 million in the last week alone.
Then came Mourdock's response to a question on abortion during the last debate.
It was an apparent game-changer. Friday's Howey/DePauw poll showed Donnelly with an 11-point lead, the margin much wider for women.
It's a poll Mourdock dismissed as he campaigned Monday with Senator Dan Coats.
He told reporters during a stop in Fishers, "I'm very confident with our own polling. It shows us up by three points and that's been a tracking poll over the last week and so we're headed in the right direction."
"I want Richard to join me so we have 51 senators to support our new president, Mitt Romney," Coats said.
Mourdock has always believed this election to be about repealing the President's affordable health care plan, but some verbal slip-ups, dealing with rape and abortion, have distracted from that. But on the last night before the election, down in Evansville, where he plans to vote Tuesday morning, he says he still believes Hoosier voters will stand with him on Election Day.
"Early voting trends favor Republicans. Huge Republican county turn out. Democrat counties, not so much, so we are excited about that," Mourdock said. "We know Governor Romney is going to win this state with a very big number and we believe that will help all Republicans."
Donnelly, meantime, who criss-crossed the state with former Senator Evan Bayh Monday, was also careful not to rely on the latest numbers. Even though he has stepped out of the political spotlight, Bayh remains popular in the Hoosier State.
"I'm just doing all I can humanly do to keep working until the polls close all the way over on the Central time zone," Donnelly said.
Donnelly spent the last night of his campaign encouraging campaign workers in South Bend.
"This is about all our voters. So I think the message of good jobs, great opportunity for your family, good education and working together. I mean, it's what we do at home, it's what we do at our jobs. It's what every business has to do to succeed, that we work together, come together to make our nation stronger," Donnelly said.
So, what to watch for as the early returns come in Election Night? Eyewitness News turned to our Indiana Insiders.
Democratic analyst Robin Winston said Marion County and Republican stronghold Hamilton county are key.
"Because if Joe Donnelly doesn't get blown out in those counties by a lot and runs well in the (doughnut counties) and runs as well as expected in Marion County, that's all she wrote. It means he'll do very well," Winston said.
Republican analyst Peter Rusthoven said a lot hinges on the Lugar Republicans.
"Mourdock has to get an awful lot of these people who are uncomfortable about him, and the polling indicates that he can't quite get there," Rusthoven said. "I think he may get closer than the poll on Friday showed, but I think it is an uphill climb for him to get all the way."
From the Associated Press
Democratic Senate candidate Joe Donnelly is spending his final hours on the campaign trail telling voters he would continue the bipartisan tradition of Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in Washington.
Donnelly met Democratic volunteers in Fishers on Monday morning with former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh and Democratic congressional candidate Scott Reske by his side. Donnelly beamed as he took questions from the media.
New polling has shown him leading tea party-backed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock following fallout over the Republican's remarks that pregnancy resulting from rape is "something God intended."
The Donnelly campaign's final commercial features his family and a dig at Mourdock. Donnelly claims his children have grown out of their belief that they are always right but that Mourdock hasn't.
Meantime, Republican Richard Mourdock is making his final pitch for the Indiana Senate seat held by the GOP for nearly four decades by telling voters he would be the 51st vote to repeal the federal health care overhaul.
Mourdock and Republican Sen. Dan Coats stopped Monday morning at the First Watch Restaurant in Indianapolis to greet diners and deliver their closing arguments against Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly.
Mourdock dismissed polling that shows Donnelly taking an 11-point lead in the race following Mourdock's comment that a pregnancy resulting from rape is "something God intended." A Howey/DePauw poll released Friday showed Donnelly taking a sizable lead among women voters after the comment.
The Mourdock campaign is airing an ad featuring women supporters who attempt to tie Donnelly to controversial policies of national Democratic leaders.
Also, Libertarian Andrew Horning could draw enough votes to sway the outcome of the hotly contested Senate race.
Horning might not be as recognizable as Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Rupert Boneham of "Survivor" television fame. But a Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll released last week found Horning garnering 6 percent support in the Senate race.
That would be about triple the vote share that Horning received as the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2008 and 2000. The Libertarian candidate for Indiana's Senate election two years ago topped 5 percent of the vote, so Horning could follow that trend.
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