Democrat Joe Donnelly wins Indiana Senate race

November 6, 2012

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) won the Indiana Senate race Tuesday, defeating state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) in the contest to replace outgoing Sen. Richard Lugar (R).


(Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Donnelly led Mourdock 49 percent to 45 percent, with 85 percent of precincts reporting. The Washington Post has called the race for Donnelly. 

Donnelly defied the tilt of increasingly Republican Indiana to defeat Mourdock, whose brand of unapologetic conservatism was a consistent target of Democratic criticism. Mourdock ran to the right of Lugar in the May Republican primary, defeating the longtime moderate incumbent by 20 points. 

The race between Donnelly and Mourdock was close for much of the fall, but turned sharply in Donnelly's direction during a late October debate. Mourdock remarked at the debate that he believes that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Polling in the wake of his comments showed movement toward Donnelly. 

Donnelly, a Blue Dog Democrat, sought to chart a moderate path in his campaign. Republicans tried to tie him to President Obama at every turn. For his part, Donnelly often touted the auto bailout spearheaded by Obama, which Mourdock opposed. 

Donnelly's win is sure to raise questions in the coming days about whether poor campaigns by Republican Senate candidates cost the party seats in places like Indiana, which leans GOP.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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