Hoosier Senators Join Mourdock, Donnelly for Closing Pitch to Voters
Coats, Bayh join their candidates in final day of revving up party bases
Senate hopefuls Joe Donnelly (D) and Richard Mourdock (R)
As the Senate campaign enters its final 24 hours, both Joe Donnelly and Richard Mourdock are getting some help from allies who have won Senate races before.
Former Senator Evan Bayh joined Donnelly at Democratic phone banks in Fishers and three other cities, while Mourdock countered with current Republican Senator Dan Coats.
It's a proxy fight of sorts for an election Hoosiers twice just missed seeing. Coats retired from the Senate in 1998, a year in which he'd been expected to face a tough battle against Bayh, the state's newly retired governor. 12 years later, Coats launched a comeback bid to challenge Bayh for the seat, only to be startled weeks later by Bayh's even more unexpected retirement.
Internal polls from the Mourdock and Donnelly campaigns and a Rasmussen Reports poll show a statistical dead heat, though an independent Howey-DePauw poll sees Donnelly with a comfortable lead. The neck-and-neck race is something Bayh and Coats have little experience with. With the exception of a hard-fought five-way Republican primary in 2010, Coats has cruised to victory in three Senate races and five House campaigns. Bayh rolled up even bigger margins in his two Senate victories -- he hasn't faced a tough race since winning his first term as governor in 1988.
Bayh concedes there's "a little less stress" in a more wide-open race. But both men agree it never affected their approach to the waning moments of a campaign. Coats says he's always campaigned with a mindset that nothing is assured, and the next voter he meets might be the one he needs to put him over the top. And Bayh says the focus is always on what you hope to achieve in office after the election is over.
Both senators reinforced the themes Donnelly and Mourdock have been emphasizing, with Bayh praising Donnelly as someone who would work in a bipartisan way, while Coats and Mourdock stress their commitment to repealing the federal health care law.
Both campaigns focused their Election Eve itineraries on firing up their own volunteers to turn out their vote. But both are still out shaking hands as well, and greeting voters at polling places on Election Day.