INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Joe Donnelly
confirmed Wednesday he will vote for President Barack Obama in November, but
he left open the possibility of voting for a Republican for Senate majority
leader if he’s elected.
Donnelly told The Associated Press he would be an independent and moderate
voice in Washington in the mold of former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh and U.S.
Sen. Richard Lugar, whose seat he is vying to fill.
In making that argument, Donnelly has touted his opposition to Democratic
leadership on key issues such as climate change legislation and the
construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But Republican candidate Richard
Mourdock and his supporters have spent millions of dollars on ads arguing
that Donnelly would amount to no more than another vote for Democratic
leaders in Washington.
“I don’t agree with everything he’s done, clearly I don’t. I voted against
issue after issue after issue he supports,” Donnelly said of the president.
“But I have never understood a campaign like Mr. Mourdock’s where they focus
is on saying that ‘You know the president.’ I knew George Bush, I respected
George Bush, I respect Barack Obama, because they are the presidents of the
Democratic candidates’ support for the top of their ticket is almost
universally expected, but Democrats in conservative states like Indiana have
often tried to distance themselves from the party leadership. U.S. Sen. Joe
Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who campaigned for Donnelly last month,
said earlier this year he had not yet committed to voting for Obama because
of his energy and environmental policies.
Donnelly has walked a careful line through the race, touting his opposition
to some Democratic priorities such as energy legislation, while heartily
defending his support for others such as the federal health care law.
Indiana’s battle has turned into a debate over who can better compromise and
work across party lines, ironically, in the vein of Lugar, who lost the
Republican primary over allegations that he compromised too much in
At stake in the Indiana race is control of the Senate as Democrats and
Republicans battle over slim margins of control. Republicans have accused
Donnelly of being a guaranteed vote for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,
but Donnelly left open the possibility of voting for a Republican to lead
Asked if he would support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for
majority leader, he said “I don’t know who I’d support.” Asked again if he
would consider voting for any Republican to lead the chamber he said “I’d
consider voting for the best person.”
But his support for a Republican leader seems highly unlikely, based on
Senate rules that would effectively require Donnelly to caucus with
Republicans in order to support a potential Republican majority leader.
Mourdock, who spent the day campaigning across Indiana with Republican
senators, including the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
Chairman John Cornyn, argues the question of who will run the Senate is
“I’m proud to stand there with any of my future colleagues, and it seems my
opponent is not so much willing to get up there with Harry Reid these days,”
Mourdock said Wednesday at the Statehouse. “This race is about whether or
not Harry Reid is going to be the majority leader.”
The northern Indiana congressman talked extensively about his work with
congressional Republicans on issues ranging from the federal transportation
bill to the stalled farm bill. Throughout the interview Donnelly said his
own experience proves he can best work with both sides, arguing at one point
that Mourdock would sooner leave Washington to campaign for other
Republicans than try to work with Democrats.
Neither candidate has talked much about their personal lives on the campaign
trail, instead focusing most of their time attacking each other. But
Donnelly opened up Wednesday, saying his work ethic came from the death of
his mother and the values his father taught him growing up.
“If you want to know the core of who I am and who my family is and how I
view things — my mom died when I was 10 years old, and somebody said to my
father, ‘You know, your kids can get social security survivors benefits.’
And he said ‘Look, I work, I take care of my kids. That’s for people who
need it right now.’”
When asked about his vote on the federal health care law, he told the story
of his daughter, who takes Enbrel for her rheumatoid arthritis, at a price
tag of $1,500 a month.
“If there’s a child in downtown Indianapolis who’s maybe living with a
single mom, and they can barely cover rent, how do they cover the cost of
Enbrel?” he said. “How do they make it so their daughter doesn’t have to go
in a shower stiffened up every single day, as opposed to being able to get