Don't count Mourdock out

Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for Senate in Indiana, was cruising along with a 5-point lead over his Democratic opponent Rep. Joe Donnelly when he opined during a debate that when a rape happened “it was what God intended.”

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His foray into theology almost cost him the election — and the Republicans yet another seat in the Senate, much as how Todd Akin’s recent comment that "legitimate" rape does not induce pregnancy has potentially delivered the Missouri seat to incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill.

But not so fast! The polling reflects that Mourdock is alive and kicking and may be able yet to keep the Indiana seat Republican. John McLaughlin, Mourdock’s pollster, found the race tied at 44 to 44 percent on Tuesday night — the night of his infamous comment. As of Wednesday night, he had the race still tied at 44-44.

Mourdock’s comment has not received the focus that Akin’s remarks did, partly because now there is far more clutter in the political environment. Unlike Akin, he was not declared anathema (another foray into theology) by the Republican elders or even by Mitt Romney. The presidential hopeful 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. He is a reliable conservative and, as we have seen, honest to a fault, and 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 Rep. Rick Berg has now opened a respectable lead. (vacant Democratic seat)

3. Wisconsin: At first Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson was well ahead of Democratic Rep. 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 U.S. 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 Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) and Sen. Jon Tester. With both representing the entire state, it’s a tough race. But Rehberg has had a small but consistent lead.

5. An upset is looming in Pennsylvania, where Rasmussen has Republican Tom Smith one ahead of Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. Private polls have him further ahead.

6. Virginia: The latest private poll shows former Sen. George Allen (R) 5 points ahead of former Gov. Tim 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 Rep. Connie Mack only 4 points behind. When an incumbent has 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. In Ohio, Republican challenger Josh Mandel is only slightly behind ultra-liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown; 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, where we may come to miss Olympia Snowe!

3. Massachusetts, where Scott Brown is behind Elizabeth Warren in this very liberal state.

So, at worst, with six GOP gains and three Democratic gains, we emerge with a 50-50 Senate. A Vice President Paul Ryan would break the tie. And, at best, with eight GOP gains and two Democratic gains, we will be 53-47 Republican in the chamber.

To do: Help Mourdock (Ind.), Mandel (Ohio), Mack (Fla.), and Smith (Pa.).

And ... in a long shot, Republican Barry Hinchey is gaining on Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in Rhode Island. And New Jersey Republican Joe Kyrillos is moving up against Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez.


Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author including 2010: Take Back America — A Battle Plan and Outrage, Fleeced and Catastrophe. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email or to order a signed, advanced copy of his latest book Revolt!, go to dickmorris.com.