The nationwide uproar over Richard Mourdock’s remark that pregnancy resulting from rape “is something that God intended to happen” went unnoticed Saturday at a local Democratic Party rally attended by Mourdock’s rival for a U.S. Senate seat.
Not only did Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, fail to mention Mourdock’s comment – which came during a Tuesday debate and has been fodder for Democratic leaders, TV talk shows and social media – Donnelly did not even refer to his Republican opponent.
Instead, he told supporters at Headwaters Park that Democrats stand for “good education, good jobs, standing up for our men and women who serve our country and doing what’s right for America.”
Asked in an interview about the state treasurer’s remark in their New Albany debate, Donnelly said he thinks “people are taking that into consideration when they are making the decision on who they want to represent them in the U.S. Senate. This is just one more example of Mr. Mourdock having extreme positions.”
Donnelly added, “It has certainly improved my name recognition.”
After the rally, Allen County Democratic Party Chairman John Court said Mourdock’s comment “definitely was a gift to Democrats.”
Mourdock’s campaign disputed that assessment. Brose McVey, deputy campaign manager, said in a telephone interview that Donnelly’s restraint Saturday demonstrates he “may be starting to feel some feedback from Hoosiers that politicizing sensitive issues is a dangerous game. He may have decided to be more cautious. … But his ads aren’t going to let him.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has begun running a TV ad with a video clip of Mourdock making the rape remark. A female narrator asks, “God intended that a woman be raped and become pregnant?” She then says that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and GOP gubernatorial nominee Mike Pence “believe Richard Mourdock goes too far and should apologize.”
Mourdock – like Donnelly an opponent of abortion rights – said Wednesday at an Indianapolis news conference that “life is precious” and rape “is something that I abhor.” He contended that Democrats were twisting his words.
“The feeling we have is that Hoosiers do not appreciate the harsh, unfair politicking on this subject,” McVey said Saturday, noting that Mourdock “said he’s never gotten more hugs in his life than in the last 72 hours.”
Mourdock and Donnelly had been in a statistical tie in independent polls taken before Tuesday’s debate. Because the race has been so tight, “neither candidate could afford an unforced error, but it looks like Mourdock made one,” Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, said Friday in an email.
“Mourdock should still benefit from running in a conservative state, and as long as his party doesn’t abandon him like they did Todd Akin, I still think he’ll have an opportunity to win,” Gonzales said.
Akin, the Republican candidate for a Missouri seat in the U.S. Senate, said in August “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Many Republicans, including Romney, asked Akin to drop out of his race.
Donnelly and gubernatorial candidate John Gregg have been openly courting Republican voters, especially supporters of six-term Sen. Richard Lugar, whom Mourdock defeated in a bitter Republican primary election. At the Headwaters Park rally, Gregg implored Democrats to “reach out to those Lugar Republicans they’ve thrown out of their party.”
Told of that statement, McVey said: “At minimum, this concept that there are two kinds of Republicans out there is exaggerated. We see steady and constant evidence of what we think of as the Republican base standing behind Mourdock.”
No more than 10 percent of the Indiana electorate are independent or swing voters, he said.
“We don’t want to take for granted the passionate supporters of Lugar in the primary. We want to earn their support,” McVey said.
Mourdock was campaigning Saturday in southern Indiana. He will appear Tuesday at the Allen County Republican Party’s annual Bean Dinner.
About 150 people attended the local Democratic rally. Speakers included Kevin Boyd, the party’s congressional candidate in the 3rd District; Glenda Ritz, who is running for state superintendent of public instruction; and candidates for the Indiana General Assembly and Allen County offices.
Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne, did criticize Mourdock, but Moses was in error when he claimed the state treasurer wanted to block the bankruptcy reorganization of General Motors, which has an assembly plant in Allen County. Mourdock in fact tried to halt the 2009 sale of bankrupt Chrysler, arguing that terms of the deal were unfavorable to state employee pension funds that had invested in the automaker.