Sen. Richard Lugar (R) was such a shoo-in for re-election to a sixth term in 2006 that Democrats didn't even field a candidate against him, and 2012 probably wouldn't have been much different. But if Democrats weren't going to sink Lugar, Republican activists were rearing to try — and they did, selecting conservative Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the GOP primary. Democrats, meanwhile, chose a Blue Dog at the right edge of their congressional caucus, Rep. Joe Donnelly, and now they've got a real race on their hands.
Richard Mourdock (R)
Indiana state treasurer
Rep. Joe Donnelly (D)
Three-term U.S. congressman
For weeks, the hard-fought contest was following well-worn lines of the Tea Party era — Mourdock hammering Donnelly for voting for ObamaCare and, more generally, supporting President Obama, and Donnelly arguing that Mourdock is too conservative for Indiana and slamming him for wanting to privatize Social Security and suing post-bankruptcy Chrysler to force its liquidation. And then came the candidates' Oct. 23 debate. Mourdock answered a question about whether rape victims should be able to get abortions by saying that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen." After the debate, Mourdock told the press that the suggestion that he thinks "God ordained or pre-ordained rape" is "sick, twisted," and inaccurate, but Democrats are already putting up ads slamming Mourdock for appearing to say just that, and pointing out that Mitt Romney had just endorsed Mourdock in a TV ad that started airing the day before the debate. It's unclear if the issue will be as damaging for Mourdock as a similarly controversial comment has been for Missouri Senate hopeful Rep. Todd Akin (R).
HUFFINGTON POST POLLSTER POLL AVERAGE
Mourdock: 45.8 percent
Donnelly: 40.9 percent
(See the full data here.)
"Indiana regulates polling strictly, so we've been starved for information here," says Real Clear Politics. In the absence of good independent polls, "the best guess is that Mourdock is ahead, but that it is still a close race." Two of the Big Four election forecasters, Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato, rate the race a tossup, while Stu Rothenberg and New York Times stats master Nate Silver have it tilting Republican.
CASH ON HAND (as of Sept. 30):
Mourdock: $1.3 million on hand; $7.1 million total
Donnelly: $936,000 on hand; $4.2 million total
Richard Mourdock: "Romney"
Joe Donnelly: "Middle"
More races at a glance:
Arizona Senate: Jeff Flake vs. Richard Carmona
Connecticut Senate: Linda McMahon vs. Chris Murphy
Maine Senate: Angus King vs. Charlie Summers vs. Cynthia Dill
Massachusetts Senate: Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren
Missouri Senate: Claire McCaskill vs. Todd Akin
Montana Senate: Jon Tester vs. Denny Rehberg
Nebraska Senate: Deb Fischer vs. Bob Kerrey
North Dakota Senate: Rick Berg vs. Heidi Heitkamp
Pennsylvania Senate: Bob Casey vs. Tom Smith
Virginia Senate: George Allen vs. Tim Kaine