Republican Richard Mourdock did something back in May that no Democrat had been able to do for 38 years: Defeat Richard Lugar.
Mourdock, Indiana’s tough talking state treasurer, described Lugar as President Barack Obama’s favorite Republican during the primary earlier this year. Mourdock said Lugar’s bipartisan approach was hurting the nation and forcing it deeper into debt.
That stance was music to the ears of Hoosiers tied to the Tea party, who had grown tired of Lugar’s moderate ways since he won the U.S. Senate seat in 1976. Mourdock also challenged Lugar’s residency in the state pointing out that Indiana’s senior Senator spent most of his time living and working in Washington, DC. Those issues became too much for Lugar to overcome and he fell to Mourdock.
But Mourdock’s win also gave Democrats like Joe Donnelly, a Congressman from South Bend, an opportunity to beat a Republican other than Lugar. Now, with an 11-point lead in the latest poll, Donnelly is poised to beat Mourdock to become the first Democrat to hold that seat in nearly four decades. Its kept the race in the national spotlight since whomever wins the seat, could help tip the balance of power in Washington.
Donnelly and Mourdock had been running neck and neck for weeks, forcing both candidates to try and claim Sen. Lugar's mantle of bipartisanship. But the race widened two weeks ago, after the final debate between the two candidates. In response to a question about their stance on abortion, Donnelly said he only favored abortion if a woman’s life is in jeopardy, or as a result of incest or rape.
Mourdock, who is staunchly against abortion, says if a pregnancy happens even in the course of rape, that it’s something that God intended. The controversial comment drew national attention and even Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who had produced a TV ad supporting Mourdock, tried to distance himself from the remarks and said he disagreed with Mourdock.
Mourdock issued a statement to clarify his stance and alleged that Donnelly and others had “twisted” his words.
But according to the polls, the damage may already be done. Ironically, if Donnelly wins the seat, he will have done so without much help from Obama.
Obama won Indiana four years, becoming the first Democrat to do so in 44 years. But Obama isn’t likely to repeat that victory today. As Obama has dropped in the polls here Donnelly has tried to distance himself from the president during the campaign. Donnelly is on the record as supporting Obama’s bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, and re-affirmed he will vote for the president.
In most years, the governors race would take top billing for the most closely watched political race in the state, but not this year. And for good reason. While Democrat John Gregg has put up a strong campaign, he’s not likely to beat Republican Mike Pence, a congressman from Indiana’s 6th district. Pence says he wants to continue the winning streak started by Mitch Daniels.