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Mourdock Could Still Win

2:22 PM, Nov 4, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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The last several weeks have not been good for Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana. The two-term state treasurer, who beat six-term incumbent Senator Dick Lugar in the GOP primary in May, has fallen back in the polls against his Democratic opponent, Congressman Joe Donnelly. A recent poll, from Brian Howey and Depauw University, showed an 11-point lead for Donnelly.

Mourdock

Presumably, this drop stems from Mourdock’s response to a question at an October 23 debate about his position on abortion. Mourdock opposes abortion in all instances except for when the life of the mother is at risk, and when explaining his opposition to aborting pregnancies that occur as a result of rape, he said the following: “I just struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize, life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

The state and national media pounced on the statement, likening it to Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s bizarre assertion in a debate that women cannot become pregnant from rape.

But despite the media narrative and the Howey/DePauw poll, Mourdock still has a chance of winning the seat, for a few of reasons:

1. Joe Donnelly does not actually lead by 11 points.

On Friday, the Mourdock campaign released its own internal poll, from Republican pollster John McLaughlin, which shows Mourdock up 2 points over Donnelly, 46 percent to 44 percent, with the Libertarian candidate polling at 3 percent. This is probably an overconfident assessment, but if so, then the Howey/DePauw poll could be erring in the opposite direction by giving Donnelly an 11-point advantage, 47 percent to 36 percent. In September, the same poll found a 2-point lead for Donnelly, while Rasmussen found a 5-point lead for Mourdock a few weeks later.

There’s been scant polling in this race, but before Mourdock’s debate flap, the race remained quiet. And in a year where Indiana is leaning Republican (Mitt Romney is ahead and Republican Mike Pence is expected to win the governor’s race), it’s more likely Mourdock had a small lead throughout the summer and most of the fall. Rasmussen’s most recent poll, which finds Donnelly ahead by 3 points, may be a more accurate reflection of where the race stands now.

2. Mitt Romney is winning Indiana decisively

Romney could win the Hoosier State big; the Real Clear Politics average shows an 9.5-point advantage for the GOP presidential hopeful. This, of course, doesn’t mean Mourdock can simply ride on Romney’s coattails. After all, Obama won Indiana in 2008 even as the state reelected Republican governor Mitch Daniels in the same year. Hoosiers have split their ballots in the past and may very well do so again in 2012. 

But Romney’s expected margin suggests the Howey/DePauw poll is off the mark. The poll gave Romney a 10-point lead over Obama, 51 percent to 41 percent. Fifty-one percent for Romney but only 36 percent for Mourdock? That’s a 15-point difference for two candidates of the same party. It stands to reason that either Romney is faring worse than Howey/DePauw suggests—a possibility that conflicts with most other presidential polls in Indiana—or Mourdock is faring better. Again, the Rasmussen poll, which shows 45 percent for Donnelly and 42 percent for Mourdock, makes more sense within the context of the presidential election.

3. Richard Mourdock is not Todd Akin.

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