Indiana Senate race moves to “lean Democratic”

November 2, 2012

We are moving the Indiana Senate race from "tossup" to "lean Democratic" as it has become clear that state Treasurer Richard Mourdock's comments about rape made during a debate late last month have severely damaged his chances of winning the open seat contest.

With the move, Republicans' path to majority status on Nov. 6 grows increasingly narrow. Republicans must now win all five states we currently rate as "tossups" AND win one of the states we currently rate as "lean Democratic" simply to get the Senate to a 50-50 tie. (Republicans would have control under that scenario only if Mitt Romney was elected president.)

Those are decidedly long odds -- particularly when Republicans came into the cycle defending just 10 seats as compared to 23 for Democrats.

(One bit of good news for the GOP? There are a lot of races that could give them that sixth  state; The Fix currently rates a whopping 11 races as "lean Democratic.")

Ever since Mourdock made his comments, we have carefully watched the polling in this race to gauge just how much he hurt himself. And, with the release of a new bipartisan poll this morning showing Mourdock losing to Rep. Joe Donnelly by 11 points, it's clear that the damage done is extensive.

To be clear, we don't believe Mourdock ultimately loses the race by double digits and, in conversations with operatives in both parties, he is starting to bounce back from what was a major deficit. But, time is short and Mourdock looks likely to run out of it before he can get back ahead of Donnelly.

The race prior to Mourdock's rape comments was close but the Republican had a 2-3 point edge in most polling. In the wake of Mourdock's comments, he fell behind by high single digits.

Now to win, Mourdock has to hope that Romney's margin in the state is large enough to drag him over the line -- a possibility but not a probability.

The Howey poll also shows Democrat John Gregg closing to within seven points of Rep. Mike Pence (R) in the state's open governor's race, prompting us to also move that race, from "solid Republican" to "lean Republican." (Governor's ratings can be found here, and make sure to check out our Friday Line of the top five governor's races today.)

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Sean Sullivan · November 2, 2012