Sometimes in a political race where nobody has a clear sense of where things stand, a poll will come out that just makes everybody say: “Whoa, okay, I get it.” That’s pretty much what happened today in Indiana, when the respected bipartisan Howey/DePauw poll showed Democrat Joe Donnelly holding a double-digit lead over Republican Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Poll internals indicated Mourdock’s favorability ratings have just collapsed in the wake of his remarks in an October 23 poll that it was God’s Will that women carry to term pregnancies caused by rape.
If this is at all accurate, the math for the once-thought-to-be-certain Republican takeover of the United States Senate becomes really improbable. Down three seats going in, Republicans would be down five with the loss of Indiana and the equally likely loss of Maine. Many analysts think Missouri’s gone, too. So that would make Republicans down six with eight other races considered tossups. Anybody want to bet the GOP wins seven of those eight?
You know, with all the money the national parties spend on these races, you’d think they’d have the wherewithal to provide training on the kinds of remarks candidates should avoid even if they have to fake a heart attack to do so. And particularly after the Akin meltdown, why didn’t somebody in Washington take a look at the rest of the Senate candidates, asking themselves, Hmmmm. Who else we got who might be prone to say something stupid about rape and abortion? and then place several hundred phone calls to Indiana reminding Mourdock’s handlers not to let him say something stupid about rape and abortion!
There’s always the human element in politics, and it may well be that Mourdock had been warned again and again but chose to say his piece about God working his mysterious will through rapists because he thinks that might not have occurred to people before. Who knows? I once worked for a politician who if specifically warned not to say something in a meeting would make it the very first thing out of his mouth; it’s as though he could remember the subject but not the recommendation. Stuff like this can wind up mattering a lot more than the distribution of dollars or the expectations of the pros.