Indianas U.S. Senate candidates finally agreed on one topic Monday: After six months of campaigning – and carping at each other – they are homesick.
On the eve of todays election, Republican Richard Mourdock guessed that he had spent five nights at his Vanderburgh County home since Labor Day. Democrat Joe Donnelly said hed stayed at his St. Joseph County home three nights in that time.
In the car right now is a whole big bag of laundry, Rep. Donnelly, D-2nd, said during a campaign stop in Fort Wayne. Because as soon as I get home, it is right into the washer and dryer.
At a separate local appearance, state Treasurer Mourdock said: What Im looking forward to is not being on the road. Its a grind.
After several weeks of rallies, speeches, news conferences, fundraisers and two debates – set against a backdrop of around-the-clock TV ads by their campaigns and outside interests – the two rivals toured the state Monday urging people to vote.
The Indiana race is one of 33 Senate contests nationwide and among a dozen or less in which either candidate appears to have a chance to win a six-year term. Democrats hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, while Republicans control the U.S. House.
The Donnelly-Mourdock match has been regarded as so close that Libertarian candidate Andrew Horning could sway the outcome if a week-old independent poll giving him 6 percent of the vote is accurate.
The winner will replace six-term Sen. Richard Lugar, whom Mourdock defeated by 21 percentage points in the Republican primary election. Among todays crucial questions is whether longtime Lugar backers will reject Mourdock in droves.
The last presidential election in which Hoosiers elected a senator to an open seat was in 1944, when Republican Homer Capehart edged term-limited Democratic Gov. Henry Schricker.
Mourdock has tried to present himself as a mainstream conservative who will demand cuts in the federal budget deficit and the national debt, and he has painted Donnelly as a yes man for President Obama and liberals in Congress.
Donnelly in turn has staked his claim as a moderate committed to protecting and creating jobs while insisting Mourdock is an extremist unwilling to compromise with Democrats of any stripe.
Their Monday visits to Fort Wayne could not have been more different.
Mourdock, two aides and a volunteer had lunch at the Mocha Lounge on Covington Road, where Mourdock introduced himself to the owner and the half-dozen other people dining there.
Just to be on the cusp of election to the Senate, and Im convinced that is where we are, is humbling. Its a big job, Mourdock, 61, said over a turkey sandwich.
A couple of hours later, Donnelly and former Sen. Evan Bayh strode through local Democratic Party Headquarters on Decatur Road. They joined local candidates and elected officials, including Mayor Tom Henry, to shake hands with 30 people who were making phone calls to prospective voters.
I just want to tell you how lucky and blessed I feel, Donnelly, 57, said in thanking the crowd for its support.
Hoosiers will elect nine people to two-year terms in the House, including three in open seats. In the 3rd District, which covers northeast Indiana, Democrat Kevin Boyd of Fort Wayne is challenging first-term Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Howe.