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Donnelly, Mourdock needle each other on weaknesses

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Republican Richard Mourdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly faced off Monday for the first time in a debate that saw them repeating many of the hard-edged charges that have marked their contentious campaign to be Indiana's next U.S. senator, but they landed few blows.

When Donnelly called Mourdock an "unapologetic tea party leader" Monday night in Indianapolis, Mourdock questioned the label and said he is running as a Republican.

"We have a Mourdock versus Mourdock debate going on. They're not my words, they're your words," Donnelly said.

Mourdock hit back, saying Donnelly portrayed himself as a fiscal conservative when he ran for Congress but voted for debt limit increases and the federal health care law.

Donnelly and Mourdock spent about as much time looking at each other as they did the camera, trading the same accusations they've made throughout their tight Indiana Senate battle. Mourdock repeatedly tied Donnelly to President Barack Obama and his policies and challenged him to explain his views. For his part, Donnelly continued to criticize Mourdock for comments that he would seek less bipartisanship if elected.

"I think we need to be saying here principle is more important than partisanship. We can't just have people caving in because of partisanship," Mourdock replied, repeating an argument that bipartisanship in Washington used to mean Republicans bowing to Democratic requests for more spending.

At one point, Mourdock chided Democrats for what he said was taking a statement he made at a tea party meeting about the constitutionality of Medicare out of context. But Donnelly said Mourdock was being disingenuous.

"We're not that dumb. We know what you were implying and we know what you were driving at," Donnelly told Mourdock.

Libertarian Andrew Horning joined the two on stage, but was often outside the battle. He argued Donnelly and Mourdock are no better than "cogs in the machine" that had left the nation with massive debt.

"Why would anyone vote for the status quo again?" Horning said.

The three men squared off at the WFYI studios in Indianapolis. It was the same location Mourdock and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar met in April. A few weeks after that meeting, Mourdock beat Lugar by a 20-point margin in the Republican primary.

Indiana's battle is among about a half-dozen races that will determine which party controls the Senate and has drawn national attention and money from outside groups. The race has been dominated by outside spending from Republican- and Democrat-aligned groups, including the conservative Crossroads GPS and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's super PAC.

Since the primary, Mourdock has struggled to bring moderate "Lugar Republicans" back into the fold, with polls consistently showing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence outperforming Mourdock by a dozen or so points.

The challenge for Mourdock has been to refocus the race away from him and onto Donnelly. Mourdock's early stumbles — from his comments about compromise to fundraising appeals that continued to hit Lugar well after the primary was over — placed him on the defense and spurred Republican senators to flock to the state in an attempt to bolster his credibility.

Donnelly has run a steady campaign focused on Mourdock but was forced Monday to defend unpopular votes such as his support of the federal health care law and his 2008 endorsement of Obama.

Mourdock and Donnelly tried to pin each other on perceived weaknesses but were largely unsuccessful on stage.

"You've again endorsed Barack Obama. Would you please explain why he's the right choice for America and even more, the right choice for Hoosiers?" Mourdock asked. Donnelly answered by talking about Mourdock's fight against the Chrysler bailout.

Donnelly asked Mourdock why he wrote Lugar "betrayed conservatives" in a fundraising appeal. Mourdock answered by saying Donnelly contributed to an "ever-growing" government while working in Congress.

Mourdock said after the debate the word choice in the fundraising appeal was a mistake made by a contractor and not something he would have repeated.

The candidates plan to meet again Oct. 23 for one more debate before the election.

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  • Drive them to where?
    The liberal, progressive cesspool? The federal government must get out of entitlement welfare. America is not, nor was not, established to give you or me a "safety net". It is a states' right to manage the welfare of its citizens. Sorry, but if I earn $1 Billion (I am not on the same planet) and 100,000 people next to me earned $25,000 and I'm forced, because I have it, to give them $1,000 (10% of my earnings which is about what the percentage of the total tax bill would be) each because "it's fair" I have options within a state. In addition, if, using the tax code, I can reduce my total tax payment in half, why am I being castigated? Hey, your duly elected "politicians" took the payout to have the tax code changed in my favor. It's not my problem you elected a bunch of immoral, unethical people to be your "representative"!
  • Mr. Horning
    Andrew, you have to know that a vote for Mr. Horning is vote for Mr. Donnelly. Besides, who will Mr. Horning caucus with? The Democrats, the Rebublicans, or will he simply take his power base of "one" and caucus with himself? The home for Libertarians is in the Republican party where they can hold their fellow conservatives accountable...
  • Statesman, visionary....really
    So reading John T. Shaw's account of Senator Lugar's public life will change my mind about the hopefully unintended downside to UniGov, grabbing pork at every opportunity, consenting to each and every judicial nominee regardless of their commitment to the original intent of the constitution, and weakening our nations standing overseas by drawing down our military power? There was a time when our nation had the luxury of sending "statesmen" like Senator Lugar to Washington, but the left has no interest in real compromise. Where are the "moderate" Democrats in the Senate? You'd be hard pressed to name 5. I believe that we need warriors in the Senate at this point in history and if Mr. Mourdock is willing to fight for truly conservative values, he has my vote.
  • Dismissive
    I don't like that this article is so dismissive of Mr. Horning and the involvement of the Libertarian Party in the debate. I think he made many valid and well-presented points. The fact that the IBJ framed and began this article as a debate between only two parties is just poor journalism. I hope anyone reading this article and the comments following it realizes that there are clear alternatives to the two [very disappointing] mainstream parties. I think the debate higlighted this, as those two parties argued over and over about the same topics they've always argued about but that neither has been able to solve when in office. If you dislike the lack of progress, why vote for either? At least with Mr. Horning we'll finally have fresh ideas and arguments, instead of the tired, recycled talking points and false promises we are fed every election season from the Republicans and Democrats.
    • Tea Party has mixed benefits
      You don't build the Republican party by tossing out great leaders like Senator Lugar. You will drive people away from the party. Your will narrow the base and make it impossible to win elections.
      • DP Stam needs to do some reading.
        You need to read Richard G. Lugar, Statesman of the Senate, by John T. Shaw 2012 if you have trouble understanding why Dick Lugar is the greatest elected official in Indiana history, a statesman, and a visionary.
      • What about Horning?
        Most of the commenters indicate that they aren't excited about either Mourdock or Donnelly, yet nobody will vote for Horning. You get the bad government you deserve when you vote for the lesser of two evils, and it will never change until you liberate yourself from believing that you must choose an R or a D.
      • 'Lugar' Rinos show true colors...
        The establishment Republicans (if these comments indeed come from this group) who continue to demonize the volunteers and contributors to the renaissance of the Republican party, The Tea Party, and claim that they will support Obama and Harry Reid's chosen candidate, will deserve what they get if it indeed happens.
        • Herd of RINO's
          I sincerely hope that all these professing Republicans are really just a bunch of liberal lackys, but if not, I'm witnessing the largest herd of RINO's west of the African continent. I for one am grateful that someone finally came along and put our senior senator out to pasture. Many will say that over the years Mr. Lugar gradually lost touch with his middle right Indiana constituency, but I would argue that we sent a RINO to Washington from day one. If one truly looks at his record while in Washington for all those years, what is his "lasting" and "beneficial" legacy? His bipartisanship and lack of reverence for the Constitution speak for themselves. Richard Mourdock will be a breath of fresh air in the stale and musty chambers of the U.S. Senate.
          • Voting for Donnelly
            If Mourdock wins it will be a signal for the tea party to run candidates against Susan Brooks in 2014 and Dan Coats in 2016.
          • Talk about principles
            Does Richard Mourdock realize how ironic it is to hear him portray himself as a principled man after the way he attacked Richard Lugar? Are you kidding me? The ends do NOT justify the means.
            • GOP Precinct Committeeman for Donnelly
              I am voting for Donnelly who is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives. I am a GOP precinct committeeman who could never vote for Mourdock after his attacks on Dick Lugar.
              • Tell me about YOU
                Promoting you or your brand in the business world by slamming your competition rarely works. If you did it at IBM you got fired. Why do all the politicians think it will work for them? I’m not going to vote for anyone who runs a negative campaign. The way it looks right now, I won’t be going to the polls…
                • Ditto
                  As a former moderate Republican, I concur with the other commentaters. I left the party when Tea Party movement began. While I believe strongly in fiscal discipline and balanced budgets, I still believe the government a role in providing a social safety net and fostering the conditions for economic success and individual accomplishment. Mr. Mourdock's disdain for social programs abd his desire to abolish the entitlement programs that aide so many (especially over the past four years) just shows how callous and out of touch his ideology is with the majority in this country. Hopefully Hoosier voters wake up and split their tickets. The last thing we need is another two years of partisan bickering and a legislative log jam...
                • Simply a Matter of Trust
                  I do not trust Mourdock. It is as simple as that, and thus I will vote for Donnelly. The Tea Party made a big mistake on this one.
                • Rock, meet hard place
                  I want the Republicans to control the Senate (particularly if President Obama is reelected), but I can't in good conscience vote for Mourdock. He and his ilk (on both sides) are what is wrong with politics today. I'm not crazy for Donnelly, but Mourdock is just plain off-putting. Try again, GOP, and I'll be with you. Not this time.
                • Donnelly Mourdock
                  Donnelly was not forced to explain his conflicting votes for a "balanced budget" Amendment and Obamacare. At what tax rate will ordinary citizens have to pay in order to balance the budget with the spending levels Donnelly has voted for?

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                1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these people....do you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

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