Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for Senate in Indiana, was cruising along with a five point lead over his Democratic opponent, Congressman Joe Donnelly, when he opined during a debate that when a rape happened “it was what God intended.”
His foray into theology almost cost him the election — and the Republicans yet another seat in the Senate. Todd Aiken’s comment that rape did not induce pregnancy has delivered the Missouri seat to Democrat Claire McCaskill.
But not so fast! The polling reflects that Mourdock is alive and kicking and may be able to keep the Indiana seat Republican. John McLaughlin, Mourdock’s pollster, found the race tied at 44-44 on Tuesday night — the night of his infamous comment. And, then again on Wednesday, he had the race still tied at 44-44.
Mourdock’s comment has not received the focus that Aiken’s remarks did, partly due to the cluttered political environment. Unlike Aiken, he was not declared anathema (another foray into theology) by the Republican elders or even by Mitt Romney. Mitt said that he did not agree with Mourdock’s comments but let an ad endorsing him continue to run in Indiana, a state he is carrying by 15 points.
So all is not lost. Despite himself, Mourdock still has a solid chance of winning. A reliable conservative and, as we have seen, honest to a fault, he deserves all the support he can get. Simply put, we need that seat.
Here’s how the rest of the Senate shapes up:
Republicans have eight potential takeaways, including six likely ones:
1. Nebraska — where Deb Fischer, the Republican, has always been ahead. (vacant Democratic seat)
2. North Dakota — after an unexpectedly close race in the early going, Republican Congressman Rick Berg has now opened a respectable lead. (vacant Democratic seat)
3. Wisconsin — at first, Republican former Governor Tommy Thompson was well ahead of Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. But then he fell back as Dems poured in money. Now, on the strength of Baldwin’s vote against funding body armor for US troops and opposition to sanctions on Iran (she got $60,000 from a pro-Iran group), Thompson has taken the lead, likely for good. (vacant Democratic seat)
4. Montana — has been host to a tight race between at large Congressman Denny Rehberg (R) and Senator Jon Tester. With both representing the entire state, it’s a tough race. But Rehberg has had a small but consistent lead.
5. Pennsylvania — an upset is looming where Rasmussen has Republican Tom Smith one ahead of Democratic Senator Bob Casey. Private polls have him further ahead.
6. Virginia — the latest private poll shows George Allen (R) five points ahead of Democrat Tom Kaine.
Beyond these six likely takeaways, Republicans threaten in two more states
7. Florida — where incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson is mired in the high 40s with challenger Congressman Connie Mack only 4 points behind. When an incumbent is under 50 percent of the vote, he is vulnerable, especially in a state that is going for Romney by a higher margin in each new poll.
8. Ohio — Republican challenger Josh Mandel is only slightly behind ultra-liberal Senator Sherrod Brown and both are under 50 percent.
To offset these gains, Democrats hope for three takeaways of their own:
1. Indiana — where Mourdock is trying to live his comments down.
2. Maine — is gone to the Democrats. We may come to miss Olympia Snowe!
3. Massachusetts – Scott Brown is behind Elizabeth Warren in this very liberal state.
So, at worst (6 GOP gains, 3 Democratic gains) we emerge with a 50-50 Senate. Vice President Ryan breaks the tie. And, at best (8 GOP gains, 2 Democratic gains) we are at 53-47 Republican.
To do: Help Mourdock (Ind.), Mandel (Ohio), Mack (Fla.) and Smith (Pa.).
And … in terms of long shots, Republican Barry Hinchey is gaining on Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island and New Jersey Republican Joe Kyrillos is moving up against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.