Gaffe-prone Mourdock loses Indiana Senate race to Democrat Donnelly

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) has defeated Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) for Indiana's open Senate seat, a huge blow to GOP chances of winning back control of the upper chamber.

Donnelly leads Mourdock by 48 to 46 percent, with 66 of precincts reporting. Multiple networks have called the race.

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Mourdock began the general election as the favorite in the conservative state after defeating six-term Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) in the primary. But he never managed to win back enough Republicans and independents who'd backed Lugar in the primary, and a series of costly gaffes hurt his campaign. His loss dims Republican hopes to retake the Senate, something that seemed likely earlier this year.

Donnelly also ran a strong campaign, touting a centrist voting record that includes opposition to abortion rights and support for gun rights — his ads described him as a "bipartisan job creator" and attacked Mourdock as a "my way or the highway" extremist.

Mourdock said during a late October debate that pregnancy caused by rape is something "God intended to happen," a comment that set off a national media firestorm and led some Republicans to publicly distance themselves from his remark.

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God," Mourdock said at the debate, after saying he believes in abortion only when the mother's life is in danger. "And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

The comment quickly turned what had been a close race into one where Donnelly had the edge — polls showed a big spike in his support. But the reason Mourdock was in a tough race in the first place was because of earlier gaffes that allowed Democrats to paint the Tea Party favorite as a hyper-partisan extremist.

During and soon after his primary win, Mourdock said that "bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view," pondered aloud whether Social Security and Medicare were constitutional, said that for him the "highlight of politics" was being able to "inflict my opinion on someone else" and described a lawsuit he pushed against the auto bailout as his "Rosa Parks moment."