Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Indiana 2nd – Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) is seeking a 3rd term
Primary: May 4, 2010
Location: North-central Indiana
Days until Election Day: 86
Washington (CNN) - Voters in Indiana's 2nd district will likely have one thing on their minds as they cast ballots this fall: the economy. The district has been hit especially hard by the economic turmoil of the last two years. Although unemployment is down from its 2009 highs for most of the 12 counties that make up the district, all but two counties still face unemployment rates of 10 percent or higher. The district's economic struggles have not been lost on President Obama. He campaigned here in 2008 and returned on multiple occasions while in office.
Standing alongside him during those presidential visits was the district's Democratic representative to Congress, Joe Donnelly. Donnelly, formerly a practicing attorney and local businessman, won this seat on his second attempt in 2006, defeating GOP Rep. Chris Chocola 54 percent to 46 percent. He had lost to Chocola two years earlier by nine points. In 2008, Donnelly easily won re-election in another good year for Democrats, winning 67 percent of the vote and carrying all 12 counties against Elkhart businessman Luke Puckett.
In office, he has supported some of the party's key legislative initiatives, such as Wall Street reform and the economic stimulus package, but has opposed others, such as the "cap and trade" energy proposal. On health care reform, Donnelly was one of several Democratic members who declined to publicly state their position on the legislation until just hours before the vote. In the end, Donnelly supported the bill, which became law in March.
His Republican opponent is Jackie Walorski, a state representative first elected in 2004. She represents parts of St. Joseph County, where she was born and raised, and parts of Elkhart County, one of the more heavily Republican areas in the district. Walorski has criticized Donnelly for his "yes" vote on health care and has called for repealing the law.
At mid-year, Donnelly had a sizable cash advantage over Walorski, with $989,000 in the bank compared to $303,000 for the Republican. Donnelly also leads Walorski in overall fundraising, $1.2 million to $565,000. However, Walorski outraised the incumbent in the 2nd quarter of the year. She raised $260,000 in contributions from April through June, compared to Donnelly's $250,000.
Indiana's 2nd district is located in the north-central region of the state. It is home to Notre Dame University in South Bend, as well as to industrial manufacturing areas like Elkhart to the East and Kokomo to the South. Barack Obama carried the district in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote. George W. Bush won here in 2004 with 56 percent and won a differently drawn district in 2000 with 53 percent.
Donnelly was elected in a strong year for Democrats while campaigning against President Bush's handling of the Iraq War. Four years later, he finds himself in a much different political environment. This time around, the big issue is the economy, and the person occupying the Oval Office is a member of his own party. Though Donnelly enters the final three months of the campaign with some advantages, he does face the risk that voters looking to send a message to Obama or the Democratic Congress will use him as an outlet for any anger or frustration they feel about the economic situation at home. Though he is not as vulnerable as another incumbent Democratic congressman from his state, Rep. Baron Hill, Donnelly could very conceivably find himself the victim of the same kind of voter dissatisfaction that swept him into office over an incumbent four years ago.