Updated: Tuesday, 04 May 2010, 10:14 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 04 May 2010, 7:14 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/AP) - Former Indiana senator Dan Coats has won the GOP Senate nomination. Coats shot to an early lead on election night and held on to beat opponents Marlin Stutzman and John Hostettler.
The newly nominated Republican candidate had his son Andrew introduce him as he began the celebration at the downtown Indianapolis Marriott.
Saying, "Thank you, Indiana, for your strong support," Coats stressed his conservatism and his strong Hoosier values. He then began attacking President Obama.
Coats said the choices between himself and representative Brad Ellsworth, the Democratic nominee, are clear. He said it's time to stop the spending in Washington and the hard left the government is taking. He attacked Ellsworth's support of the recently-passed health care bill.
Coats intends to hit the road campaigning immediately. He's heading to Evansville Wednesday morning right into the heart of Brad Ellsworth territory.
Coats has been under fire from conservatives for his years as a Washington lobbyist and for a vote in favor of a gun control law when he was in the Senate.
He only won about 40 percent of the vote with 71 percent of precincts reporting, signaling a divide in the GOP between mainstream Republicans and more conservative tea party voters who split their votes between Hostettler and Stutzman.
That divide could be an issue in November when Coats will Ellsworth, a conservative Democrat who will be formally nominated by the Democratic central committee May 15.
"Ellsworth has enough conservative credentials to cut into some of the Republican base," said Brian Vargus, a political science professor at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.
"It is completely possible that those people who are disaffected from the party -- the so-called tea party voters -- vote Libertarian or stay home."
Coats, backed by national GOP leaders during the primary, hopes to convince tea party voters that he echoes their concerns about where the country is headed under Democratic leadership.
"We're going to be singing off the same song sheet between now and November," said Coats spokesman Pete Seat.
Coats may also portray Ellsworth as a Washington insider, even though Coats himself has plenty of experience inside the beltway.
Coats won a special election in 1990 to serve the remainder of Dan Quayle's term after Quayle became vice president in 1989.
Coats' name was last on an Indiana ballot in 1992, when he made a successful bid for a full Senate term.
But he decided not to run for re-election in 1998, when Bayh made his first run for the seat. Coats has since been an ambassador to Germany under former President George W. Bush and worked as a lobbyist in Washington.
Democrats have been attacking Coats even before he won Tuesday's primary.The chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party chided Coats for missing a deadline to file a personal financial disclosure report, saying he should know better because of his experience as a former senator. Once Coats filed the form, Democrats criticized him for being an "elite D.C. lobbyist" and questioned whether he would represent Indiana residents or special interest groups.