INDIANAPOLIS — Democrat Joe Donnelly triumphed Tuesday in one of the nation’s most tumultuous Senate races, capitalizing on fallout over his tea party-backed opponent’s comment that a pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended” to capture a seat that just a year ago looked to be a lock for Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.
Donnelly beat state treasurer Richard Mourdock after a bruising campaign that saw outside groups pump millions of dollars into the state in a race viewed by many as a test of the tea party’s strength.
In Cass County, however, Mourdock garnered 6,613 votes to Donnelly’s 6,315. Liberatarian Andrew Horning received 1,133 in Cass County.
The victory was a coup for Democrats, who had been waiting years for a shot at the seat. Lugar was so popular that in 2006 Democrats decided not to challenge him.
Even a year ago, Lugar seemed a safe bet to win a seventh term, despite widespread conservative anger with the veteran statesman’s votes on divisive legislation and his support for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. But questions about Lugar’s residency combined with a flood of outside spending by groups such as the anti-tax Club for Growth carried Mourdock to a 20-point victory in the May primary.
Democrats pounced on the opportunity as Mourdock made a series of quick missteps that alarmed more moderate Republicans. In a series of interviews the day after his primary victory, Mourdock said compromise should consist of Democrats bowing to Republican demands and stood by tea party views popular with the base of conservative voters, but not the general populace.
“To me the highlight of politics, frankly, is to inflict my opinion on someone else,” he told MSNBC the day after the primary.
Mourdock later tried to tack back toward the middle with declarations that he could work with Democrats, but he stumbled again in a televised Oct. 23 debate when he explained his opposition to abortion except in cases in which the mother’s life is in danger.