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.”
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 FischerDeb FischerSenate GOP to Obama: Stop issuing new rules Trump’s Cabinet picks raise hopes for infrastructure package GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election MORE, 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 BaldwinTammy BaldwinOvernight Finance: Funding bill expected tonight | Trump takes on Boeing | House rejects push for IRS impeachment vote | Dow hits new high Dems introduce ‘Buy America’ amendment to water bill Senator blasts GOP push for California drought language in water bill MORE. 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 TesterJon TesterRed-state Dems face tough votes on Trump picks Montana Republican warns of Senate challenge to Tester Vulnerable Dems ready to work with Trump MORE. 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 CaseyBob CaseyOvernight Finance: Funding bill expected tonight | Trump takes on Boeing | House rejects push for IRS impeachment vote | Dow hits new high Dems introduce ‘Buy America’ amendment to water bill Overnight Finance: Trump adviser softens tone on NAFTA | Funding bill to be released Tuesday | GOP leader won't back Trump tariff plan MORE 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 KaineTim KaineRepublicans tie Trump's Defense pick to funding fight Lawmakers haggle over funding bill as shutdown nears Clinton to throw thank-you party for millionaire donors MORE.
Beyond these six likely takeaways, Republicans threaten in two more states:
7. Florida, where incumbent Democrat Bill NelsonBill NelsonOvernight Tech: Big win for Samsung over Apple | Trump to sit down with tech leaders | Trump claims credit for B investment deal Celebrating Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act’s first anniversary Red-state Dems face tough votes on Trump picks MORE 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 BrownSherrod BrownOvernight Finance: Funding bill expected tonight | Trump takes on Boeing | House rejects push for IRS impeachment vote | Dow hits new high Dems introduce ‘Buy America’ amendment to water bill Overnight Finance: Trump adviser softens tone on NAFTA | Funding bill to be released Tuesday | GOP leader won't back Trump tariff plan MORE; 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 WarrenElizabeth WarrenSanders: GOP blocked 'Trump proposal' to lower drug prices 10 no-brainer ways to cut healthcare costs without hurting quality Cures bill clears first Senate hurdle MORE 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 RyanPaul RyanTaiwan lobby scores victory with Trump call Chairman: Trump can play ‘key role’ in tax reform push House Freedom Caucus chair: There's a different standard for people like IRS head MORE 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 WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGOP wants to move fast on Sessions Dem senator backing Sessions for attorney general Dems pledge to fight Sessions nomination MORE in Rhode Island. And New Jersey Republican Joe Kyrillos is moving up against Democratic Sen. Bob MenendezRobert MenendezThe right person for State Department is Rudy Giuliani Warren, Menendez question shakeup at Wells Fargo Democrats press Wells Fargo CEO for more answers on scandal MORE.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill ClintonBill ClintonTrump cuts ties with Flynn Jr. Mainstream media is the chief culprit behind ‘fake news’ Ryan: Trump's Taiwan call 'much ado about nothing' MORE, 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.