In Barack Obama’s back yard, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says Hoosiers won’t make the same “mistake” again as in 2008 in voting for Obama in the Nov. 6 general election.
“We know that sometimes mistakes happen,” Christie said before about 200 Republican supporters at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville, In., about 40 miles southeast of Chicago. “It’s time to give Barack Obama that plane ticket back to Chicago that he earned.”
In 2008, Hoosiers voted for a Democrat for president for the first time in 44 years. This year, Obama is behind to Romney in Indiana by at least nine points in recent polls. Obama hasn't spent a lot of time in Indiana and has pretty much written it off as a win this time around.
Although he spoke a bit about the presidential race, Christie’s main reason for his stop in the Democratic stronghold of Lake County was to stump for Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate that’s running neck-and-neck against Democrat Joe Donnelly for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat, one of the more closely watched races in the nation because it could help decide which party controls the Senate.
The popular Christie, once thought of a presidential candidate himself, mixed humor and strong rhetoric to drive his point across that Republicans must do all they can to help Mourdock beat Donnelly.
“There is no room on the sidelines for anybody in the last 19 days, especially not in the Mourdock campaign. You do not want to wake up on Nov. 7 and have Joe Donnelly beat Richard Mourdock by this much,” Christie said with Mourdock standing by his side. “You wake up on Nov. 7 thinking to yourself, I could have done a little bit more, I could have made a few more phone calls. … No, You want to wake up on Nov. 7th that you understanding to your core that you were part of a movement that began butting America back on the right track.”
Supporters paid thousands to meet Christie, who said if Donnelly, a congressman from South Bend, wins the general election, he would serve as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “butler.”
Those in attendance included Dan Dumezich, a Northwest Indiana resident and Chicago attorney who is state coordinator for Mitt Romney’s campaign and billionaire Dean White, a Northwest Indiana resident and developer of the Radisson Hotel where the event took place.
Mourdock, who also serves as Indiana state Treasurer, said even though polls continue to show he and Donnelly in a statistical tie, he believes there is starting to be separation between the two campaigns.
“Republicans are coming home certainly after a very divisive primary. A lot of Republicans wanted to check me out very careful. I understand that and I expected it," Mourdock said. "We’re just going to keep working hard in all 92 counties.”
Mourdock appreciated the high profile support Christie brought and says the event served another purpose: to attract more votes for the GOP in Lake County, considered stronghold of the Democratic Party.
“I want to win Northwestern Indiana. I think this is one of those elections times when people want to see somebody go to Washington who isn’t a Washington insider,” Mourdock said. “I brought the campaign here with Gov. Christie because we want the votes. I think we are going to do very, very well here.”
Mourdock says there’s no question state and national Democrats take Lake County for granted.
“I know there are a lot of Democrats in Northwest Indiana that are conservatives who love their country and who are scared to death of a $16 trillion debt, irresponsible spending and leading from behind in foreign policy,” Donnelly said. “They want to see this country go on a different track and we’re working hard to get their votes too.”
While getting high profile Republican help from outside Indiana, two big in-state GOP names are not stumping for Mourdock: Gov. Mitch Daniels and longtime U.S. Senator Richard Lugar.
Daniels opted to stay out of making political statements after announcing last summer he’d be the next president of Purdue University once his term is over at the end of December.
Lugar, meanwhile, isn’t campaigning for Mourdock, who beat him in the primary, presumably because of bad feelings left in that bruising race last spring.
Lugar has been in office for nearly 40 years. But despite his near four decades of dominance, Lugar has never won Lake County, a county of more than half a million residents and the second largest in Indiana.
Donnelly has been receiving high profile support of his own, including from former President Bill Clinton last week in Indianapolis.