"This is a watershed year," Putnam County GOP Chair Larry Sutton said. "It's our year to take back the Statehouse government and the federal government. This depends on every one of us. We can't fail."
Marsha Carrington, 8th District GOP chairwoman, read a message from Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.
"Ours is a party of progress and of new, fresh ideas," Skillman wrote. "Success in 2010 is essential."
On behalf of Gov. Mitch Daniels, Sen. Connie Lawson presented retiring Putnam County Councilman Mitch Proctor with the Distinguished Hoosier Award.
Sutton introduced the many candidates in attendance at the dinner.
"This is a tremendously difficult task and we wish you the very best," he said.
Phil Gick, who chaired Sunday's event, introduced keynote speaker Dan Coats, who is running for U.S. Senate. Coats held the office from 1989-99.
Coats began by saying he was heartened that the Lincoln Day dinners he has attended throughout Indiana had begun and ended with prayers.
"We are people of faith who realize there's something more sovereign and supreme than the government in Washington, D.C.," he said.
Coats noted the atmosphere surrounding this election was different than any other in which he had ever been involved.
"I've never witnessed or observed a situation where people weren't only concerned, but fearful," he said. "We have visions of a declining America, of an America no longer able to lead."
Coats said many people have asked him why, after so many years away, he wanted to return to the Senate.
"I have a two-word answer for that," he said. "Barack Obama."
Coats said when Obama was elected, "I saw it coming, and yet I didn't see it coming."
Coats called Obama "the slickest, most articulate candidate on the campaign trail that the country had seen for a long time."
Coats said he didn't believe Obama gave the nation the credit it deserved.
"We have been the light of the world, and we don't need a president who doesn't understand that," he said.
Coats said he took issue with President Obama apologizing to other nations for America's conduct.
"I see a plague to world opinion," he said. "We're the most generous nation in the world. We're not trying to take over a country or assert our power. We're trying to lend a helping hand."
Coats tipped his hat to the other Republican candidates running against him for the party's nomination. He said even if he was not the man who was elected, all he really wanted was to see a Republican replace the Democrat currently in the seat.
"I will stand shoulder to shoulder with that person to stand against what is going on (in Washington) now," he said.
Coats ended the event on positive note.
"Our party's back," he said. "We've learned our lesson, and people are engaged now. America has had many crises in its history. We've recovered from every one, and we'll recover from this one. Faith, family and freedom are our guiding lights."