Voter ticket-splitting could determine next Senate

By Donna Cassata

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 8:00 a.m. MDT

Indiana is a "conservative state but a state that looks for results, not strident partisanship, in the tradition of Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh," Donnelly said in an interview.

Lugar is backing the Republican but making no major effort to help the GOP candidate. Donnelly is hoping to sway some of the senator's GOP supporters, repeatedly referring to his work with the longtime lawmaker.

On Friday, Donnelly got some help from former President Bill Clinton who drew a crowd of 4,000 at the Hoosier Commonsense Rally.

"What is this idea that it's my way or the highway?" Clinton told the crowd. "I was raised to believe nobody's right all the time. Maybe Mr. Mourdock is, I don't know. He's way right all the time."

In Massachusetts, Republican Sen. Scott Brown also is talking bipartisanship in his race against Democrat Elizabeth Warren. Brown won a special election in January 2010 to fill the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy, but this election he'll likely face 700,000 to 800,000 more voters, many Democrats or independents who favor Democrats.

Polls in the state show Obama with a hefty double-digit lead over Romney, a former Massachusetts governor. The same survey shows Brown and Warren in a tight race.

Not surprisingly, Brown tells viewers in a recent commercial, "To me, creating jobs is more important than what party you belong to. That's why one of the first votes I took as a senator was for a Democratic jobs bill."

Montana and North Dakota are expected to go for Romney, but split-ticket voting could lift first-term Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp, respectively. Republicans and Democrats say both have run near flawless campaigns to make their races highly competitive against a strong GOP political headwind.

Heitkamp, North Dakota's former attorney general, recently said she's "not in this for any reason other than solving problems."

"Our candidates have shown remarkable resilience," Cecil said. "Senate races are a choice between the two people on the ballot. They're affected by, but not determined by the presidential race."

The Democratic counterpoint to Connecticut is Arizona, where Democrat Richard Carmona, a former U.S. surgeon general, has surprised the GOP, riding a compelling up-from-the-bootstraps biography to a close race against Rep. Jeff Flake.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee recently purchased more than $130,000 of ad time, an investment that would have seemed unlikely two months ago. Rival ads about Carmona's character and temperament emerged this week, underscoring the increasingly tight contest.

In Maine, Republicans and GOP-leaning outside groups are running ads against independent Angus King, the former governor who is widely expected to caucus with the Democrats. Democrats are spending heavily on ads against Republican Charlie Summers. The Democratic candidate, Cynthia Dill, has the backing of state Democrats but has gotten little attention from national Democrats.

Americans Elect, a self-described non-partisan group that wanted to get a bipartisan presidential ticket on the ballot, recently purchased about $90,000 for direct mail in Maine in support of King.

Missouri remains a true wild card. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, once considered the most vulnerable incumbent, got a fresh shot at re-election when Republican Rep. Todd Akin said women couldn't get pregnant in the case of "legitimate rape." Republicans, including Romney, called on him to quit the race.

Akin stayed in, securing the support of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, state Republicans and a boost from religious leaders in a state that Romney should win easily. McCaskill recently launched a series of TV ads in which rape victims expressed outrage about Akin's remark and his opposition to emergency contraception.

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