Mourdock abortion quote shifting momentum, defining Senate race
By TOM LoBIANCO The Associated Press November 2, 2012 3:06PM
In this Sept. 27, 2012 photo Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock poses for a photo before an interview with the Associated Press in Indianapolis. Mourdock is running against Democrat Joe Donnelly for Indiana's U.S. Senate seat. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Updated: December 4, 2012 6:11AM
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock’s comment during a televised debate that pregnancy resulting from rape is something “God intended” has come to define a race that could help determine control of the Senate.
A bipartisan poll conducted in the week following Mourdock’s comment and released Friday showed Democrat Joe Donnelly opening up a sizable lead over Mourdock — particularly among women voters — for the first time in the Senate race.
The snapshot comes as the campaigns enter their final days with the Indiana narrative still locked in on questions of rape and abortion. Democrats in races across the state have kept the comment front and center, and despite Mourdock’s best efforts to shift the conversation, even his campaign released an ad this week featuring women born as a result of rape defending his stance.
Republican pollster Christine Matthews, who conducted the poll with Democratic pollster Fred Yang, said Mourdock had done a good job early on of turning the Senate race into a referendum on President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
But Mourdock’s comment did worse than reverse that momentum, she said. It revived Democratic arguments that Mourdock is an “extremist” tea party candidate.
“I think it was very effective, to nationalize the race against Donnelly, and that was getting some momentum. This completely interrupted that momentum,” Matthews said.
The Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll released Friday showed Donnelly with a 47 percent to 36 percent lead over Mourdock among a sampling of 800 likely voters. Among women in the poll, Donnelly led Mourdock 50 percent to 38 percent. The two candidates were virtually tied among men, with Donnelly garnering 43 percent support to Mourdock’s 41 percent.
Libertarian Andrew Horning garnered 6 percent in the poll, while an equally sizable 11 percent of voters said they were undecided.
The large number of undecided voters so close to the election, combined with Indiana’s natural Republican tilt provides some hope for Mourdock.
Indeed, Mourdock was optimistic Friday, dismissing the idea that voters still are talking about his comments.
“The only poll I’m talking about today is the new unemployment numbers,” Mourdock told The Associated Press during a stop at his Indianapolis campaign headquarters.
His deputy campaign manager, Brose McVey, went further, urging voters to be “very skeptical” of the bipartisan poll and saying their campaign’s own polling paints a different picture of the race.
Donnelly spokeswoman Elizabeth Shappell basked somewhat in the Howey/DePauw assessment.
“It is clear voters are rejecting Richard Mourdock’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach to politics and responding to Joe’s message of Hoosier common sense,” Shappell said.
The Indiana race is one of a handful that will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate. Republican surrogates, including Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, descended on Indiana last month with the argument that Indiana’s seat is critical to their party winning control of the chamber.