Jack Colwell: Donnelly says he will have resources, but
Chocola sees 'high water mark'
Monday, June 11, 2012 5:09 AM
WASHINGTON - Democratic Senate nominee Joe Donnelly, already being hit by an expensive statewide TV attack by a super PAC, says he will have the resources to respond and keep the Senate race close and winnable on Nov. 6.
“We have a great chance to win,” Donnelly said, disputing a contention by Chris Chocola, Club for Growth president, that Republican Senate nominee Richard Mourdock is almost certain to win, with Donnelly to be swept away by a Republican tide in Indiana.
Donnelly and Chocola agree the race now is a tossup. Three polls have indicated that.
“He (Donnelly) has hit his high water mark,” Chocola said, noting that Donnelly is shown still with fairly low name recognition in much of the state. That provides an opportunity for the Club, for Karl Rove’s Crossroads, which has launched the current TV ads hitting Donnelly, and for other super PACs to define the Democrat negatively before he can get better known in a favorable way.
Donnelly said Mourdock already has an image as “an extremist” and high unfavorable rating percentages as a result of the fierce Republican primary fight in which Mourdock defeated Sen. Dick Lugar. This means the race is being targeted by all sides, Donnelly said, and he will have the resources to respond to attacks and keep Mourdock from escaping that “extremist” label.
Comments by Donnelly and Chocola came in interviews here.
They know each other well. Chocola beat Donnelly for Congress in the 2nd District in 2004. Donnelly won a rematch in ’06. And Chocola has gone on to head the Club for growth and be instrumental in helping Mourdock defeat Lugar this May.
Donnelly acknowledged that his vote for the health care law will be used in negative attacks and he said he is ready to respond. His vote is cited in the Crossroads ads. Donnelly said he voted for it “because change was needed to provide affordable medical care” and such popular provisions as keeping insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or cancer and allowing millions of young people to stay on or get on their parents’ health plans.
“I always said it would need to be improved,” Donnelly added. “I just voted for one of those improvements, repeal of the medical device tax.”
Donnelly said the tax could hurt employment in Indiana’s medical device industry, an important part of the state’s economy.
Other changes are needed, he said, but going back to the system denounced by doctors, hospitals and patients is not one of them.
In calling Mourdock extreme, Donnelly cited the Republican’s call for less bipartisanship in Washington and his efforts as state treasurer to block the government effort to save Chrysler.
“If he had been successful, Indiana would have been in a depression. It wasn’t time to play politics,” Donnelly said. “He was so extreme that he put his own political career ahead of saving 150,000 jobs across Indiana.”
Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.