INDIANAPOLIS | A message of moderate bipartisanship and a major campaign misstep by his opponent helped elect Democrat Joe Donnelly to the U.S. Senate.
Donnelly claimed victory in front of a cheering crowd of Democrats in an Indianapolis hotel ballroom Tuesday night. He promised to bring "Hoosier common sense" to Washington, D.C.
"This is about our future — the chance for good jobs, to see our economy grow, to work together in Washington," Donnelly said. "We can solve these problems."
Donnelly's election marks the first Senate victory for an Indiana Democrat not named Bayh since Vance Hartke won in 1970. Birch Bayh (1963-81) and Evan Bayh (1999-2011) are the only other Democrats to represent Indiana in the U.S. Senate since 1944.
Evan Bayh introduced Donnelly to the hundreds of people crowded into the Marriott Hotel. Bayh said Donnelly will be a "breath of fresh air" in the Senate.
"Today the people of Indiana voted for progress over partisanship; we voted for practical solutions rather than rigid ideology and we voted to work together rather than taking the my-way-or-the-highway approach to governing," Bayh said.
Across town, at the cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium, Republican Richard Mourdock was tearful as he reflected on the result and Democratic victories elsewhere in the country.
"Tonight, my own disappointment aside, my concern for this nation grows greater," Mourdock said. "They've opted now to be supportive of that group in Washington, D.C., that wants to constantly kick the can down the road."
Mourdock and Donnelly ran neck and neck for months following Mourdock's May 8 primary election victory over six-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind.
The race appeared to hinge on whether so-called Lugar Republicans would vote for Donnelly in the general election or stick with their party's nominee.
That all changed on Oct. 23 when Mourdock said during a debate with Donnelly and Libertarian Andrew Horning that pregnancies resulting from rape are "something that God intended to happen."
A poll taken after the debate found 40 percent of Hoosiers were less likely to vote for Mourdock after learning his views on rape, abortion and God's will. Just 6 percent said Mourdock's remark made them more likely to vote for him.
Donnelly and his Democratic allies poured millions of dollars into television and radio commercials repeatedly broadcasting Mourdock's divine rape comments, though those ads were just a fraction of the estimated $50 million spent by both sides in the race.