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Poll Gives Donnelly 11-Point Lead Over Mourdock

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(CNN) — A poll of likely voters in Indiana showed Democratic Senate candidate Joe Donnelly with an eleven point lead over GOP rival Richard Mourdock, whose comments on rape and abortion in October drew consternation from Democrats and some Republicans.

The survey from Howey Politics and DePauw University indicated Donnelly, a three-term congressman, was at 47% among likely Indiana voters in the race for the state’s U.S. Senate seat, compared to 36% who support Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer. A Libertarian candidate, Andrew Horning, was at 6% in the poll.

The Republican candidate for governor in Indiana, Rep. Mike Pence, led his Democratic opponent 47%-40%.

Indiana, which went for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in four decades in 2008, is considered a sure thing for GOP nominee Mitt Romney in the presidential contest. Friday’s poll showed Romney leading President Barack Obama 51%-41%.

In May, Mourdock toppled longtime Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar in a bitter primary contest with the support of national, state and local tea party groups.

He drew fire earlier this fall for saying during a debate that pregnancies occurring from rape are intended by God. Mourdock was explaining his opposition to abortion in cases of rape or incest when he made his remark.

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” said Mourdock. He added that he would allow for exceptions to an abortion ban when a mother’s life was in danger.

Forty percent of likely Indiana voters in Friday’s poll said those comments made them less likely to vote for Mourdock, compared to 6% who were more likely to vote for him and 54% who said the comments made no difference.

Mourdock later said he was sorry that people had misinterpreted his comments, but stuck by the crux of his argument that abortions should not be allowed in cases or rape or incest.

“I’m a much more humble person this morning because so many people mistook, twisted, came to misunderstand the points that I was trying to make,” Mourdock said.

“I’m confident God abhors violence and rape, if they came away with any impression other than that, I truly regret it,” Mourdock continued. “I apologize if they came away, and I have certainly been humbled by the fact that so many people think that that somehow was an interpretation.”

Romney, who recently appeared in a television ad endorsing Mourdock, said through a campaign spokeswoman that he did not agree with the Indiana candidate but that he had not asked for a television ad he recorded for Mourdock be pulled.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Pence, the Republican running for governor of Indiana, attempted to put space between themselves and Mourdock by repudiating the remarks.

Others, such as Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, came out in support of Mourdock. Cornyn is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

“Richard and I, along with millions of Americans – including even Joe Donnelly – believe that life is a gift from God. To try and construe his words as anything other than a restatement of that belief is irresponsible and ridiculous,” Cornyn said in a written statement.

Republicans are defending ten seats in the U.S. Senate, compared to 23 that are being defended by Democrats. The GOP seat in Indiana was long considered a lock for the party. Democrats currently control the chamber 53-47.

The Howey Politics/DePauw University was conducted by telephone from 800 likely Indiana voters from October 28-30, and the sampling error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
By Kevin Liptak

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