Political Animal


November 02, 2012 10:31 AM Bad News For Mourdock

By Ed Kilgore

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.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • MuddyLee on November 02, 2012 10:42 AM:

    This is America - anybody can run for an office. Of course, not just anybody should be elected if they run. Ignorance is NOT bliss - so why is ignorance so attractive to conservative republicans?

  • Peter C on November 02, 2012 10:45 AM:

    In a just world, Mourdoch and Akin would hurt all Republican races, because they are merely stating (out loud) the actual thinking of the core of the Republican Party.

    ... in a just world. *sigh*

  • Richard Hershberger on November 02, 2012 10:49 AM:

    The problem is your scenario presumes that the handlers, if not the candidate himself, know what is and is not stupid. More likely, the candidate thinks his is the standard mainstream opinion held by all God-fearing Christian Americans. Furthermore, he is likely to surround himself with like-minded people. I suspect they were quite surprised when his remarks turned out to be controversial.

    There is this idea that there is a Republican Party infrastructure of professional operatives who are intelligent, responsible adults and who are just pandering to the rubes, and these professional operatives can be counted on to keep the candidate on message. Indeed, Bush the Younger was elected in part on the presumption that the adults would run things once he was in the White House. We know how that worked out. How plausible is it that the adults actually exist, but are out in the corn fields working on the down ticket?

  • Kathryn on November 02, 2012 10:51 AM:

    I doubt anyone could convince Mr. Mourdock to state his position on pregnancy occurring as a result of rape any differently. His allegiance first goes to his reliigious beliefs, he is not fit for any elected office because he cannot separate church from state. I suspect he does not believe in such separation and has probably so stated. I am not familiar with his positions but certainly many evangelicals actively question that separation and quote alleged historical references to back up their positions. Evangelicals have alternate historians and history books, can't remember name of the most prominent but he is quoted as an expert frequently, David something or other. Educated and trained historians debunk his bunk.

    Yet another reason to defeat Mitt Romney, FOX News will be the official reporter of "facts".

  • jim filyaw on November 02, 2012 10:51 AM:

    you can disguise indifference, contempt, boredom, sometimes even ignorance. what's damned hard to disguise is stupidity.

  • c u n d gulag on November 02, 2012 10:53 AM:

    Reporter: "What's your view on abortion after a rape?"

    Candidate: "On abortion and that rape thingie? Well, let me tell you..."
    Staffer: "Whisper, whisper, whisper."

    Reporter: "Well?"

    Candidate: "As I was saying, let me tell you about aborti... abo... OOH! OOOOOH!! ZOMG!!! ELIZABETH, I'm... I'M COMIN' TO JOIN YOU!!!"
    Staffer: "Give him some room! GIVE HIM ROOM!!!"

    Candidate: "Is he gone?"

  • Ron Byers on November 02, 2012 10:56 AM:

    Akin might not lose in Missouri. The Republicans are pouring money in to this state including one ad that essentially says hold your nose and vote for Akin, his vote is needed to help Romney. It is about the strangest, but most honest, ad I have seen in this cycle.

    Of course there is no shortage of McCaskill ads.

    Peter C, in a just world the press would report the truth, Akin and Mourdoch believe exactly what Ryan believes and their position on abortion is exactly what is in the Republican platform.

  • sjw on November 02, 2012 10:59 AM:

    Bad news for Mourdock (and McConnell and Kyl): good news for the rest of humanity.

  • Ron Byers on November 02, 2012 11:02 AM:

    Ed, I have to agree the Republican senate campaign has been abysmal. The evangelicals take the long view and they are learning from their mistakes. Don't count on future fundi candidates making the same mistake next time.

    It is time the Democratic party adjusted to the new world the evangelicals have imposed on the political world. We need a party that takes the long view and represents a positive world view. We need to start rebuilding the Democratic party from the ground up.

  • jpeckjr on November 02, 2012 11:16 AM:

    The reason no Republican party officials in Washington called Mourdock to caution him about such remarks is obvious: they agree with him.

  • paul on November 02, 2012 11:22 AM:

    As with everyone else, I'd say you have to be well outside the rightwing bubble to implement something like this. First, you have to know that such remarks poll really badly. Then you have to recognize how many of your candidates are Darwin-award stupid enough to say such things even after seeing others (Todd Akin, we're laughing at you) get hammered for doing so.

    And then -- and this will be the hard part -- you have to convey the message quietly and "politely" enough that the the story doesn't become "National GOP is terrified of talk about rape and abortion" with a side order of manly candidates standing up to wimp central committee.

  • matt w on November 02, 2012 11:25 AM:

    Ed, in your second paragraph I think you wanted to write "Many analysts think Massachusetts is gone, too" rather than Missouri. Missouri would be a Democratic hold rather than a pickup, so losing it wouldn't put the Repubs down six -- but Warren is doing even better than McCaskill, and that would be a Dem pickup.

    I assume you're not allowed to name your old boss with the foot-in-mouth problem? Aw, c'mon....

  • Anonymous on November 02, 2012 11:38 AM:

    Kathryn, his name is David Barton. His academic credential as a historian is a degree in Christian Education from Oral Roberts University. And he's very popular apparently with the Christianists.

  • bigtuna on November 02, 2012 11:53 AM:

    Ron, and others, hit it, but it bears repeating. Ed, your idea makes sense for a rational set a players in a rational world. The new Republicans are not that. They believe these things; they do not look at facts, as rational people would, and craft a view, or solution. They do not formulate a "conservative" counterpoint to - say, medicare reform, a woman's right to make her own decisions regarding her health, etc.

    They live in a completely different world, with theur "facts", and their beliefs. They cannot be moved. And, they take the long view. Two exas:

    1. When I patiently explain how oil is formed, and how we find it, to one of these people, [and this includes elected officials at the state level] their response is: " Well, maybe that is ok for you, and how the oil companies think they know things, but I know that God put oil in places where we were meant to find it and use it. That is all I need to know". Therefore, regulations on any extractive minerals industry is going against God's will, and thus, sinful or anti God. End. of. Story.

    2. Long view - in my state, the wackos came up with some nutjob bill, that lost in committee by 11-3. Our view? - Good, its dead. Their view? " Hey, we got 3 votes first time out. Maybe next year, 4; then 5... in 5 years, we can win 8-6, and move it to the floor".

  • Mimikatz on November 02, 2012 11:56 AM:

    It is called living in the GOP bubble. People like Akin and Mourdock really believe what they are saying to the extent that they have actually thought beyond "abortion bad, must be stopped". They live in such a bubble, along with most if not all of their advisers, that they think the rest of the country agrees with them. In large parts of the country, as discussed in the last thread, there is little but Fox News and conservative talk radio. But along with those who disagree, most states also have urban and suburban areas with more secular and worldly people who don't follow the evangelical line, and in most states, and the country, they are a majority. It never ceases to amaze the GOP when they come out and vote Dem.

    And as for learning, no, the evangelicals do not take the long view. They didn't learn from the losses in 2010 (Angle, Buck and O'Donnell) or losses in 2008, or 2006. They haven't faced the demographic reality that seculars are the fastest growing denomination, that young people accept gay marriage, that minority evangelicals don't vote with them and whites are a shrinking part of the population.

  • Capri on November 02, 2012 11:58 AM:

    Mourdock was given a chance to walk the comments back, and instead he doubled down. He puts his anti-abortion views above political expediency. This is unlike the person he's most hurting is Mike Pence. Once a lock to be governer, he is now tied with Democrat Gregg. Gregg's ads tie Pence to Mourdock and the tea party.

    I live in Indiana and voted yesterday at my neighborhood grocery store. There was a line and everybody was taking a long time to vote. I interpreted that to mean that folks were splitting their tickets.

  • meady on November 02, 2012 12:08 PM:

    I have a rather more simplistic view of Mourdock and his outcomes. Perhaps the IN voters actually got to see and hear the man who has an R by his name on the ballot for the first time. I don't mean philosophically, I mean physically. The visage, tone and aurra of Mr Mourdock in one word is "creepy". Add to that what he is actually saying and no one semi-aware can possibly vote for him.

  • NKM on November 02, 2012 12:10 PM:

    It sounds like you're criticizing republican leaders for not instructing candidates how to lie better. The idea that candidates couldn't lie well enough to get elected is so slimy.

  • T2 on November 02, 2012 12:26 PM:

    the fact is simple....Mourdock defeated a reasonably reasonable GOPer , DIck Lugar, in the primary. The Republican/Tea Party in his state wanted a crazy person to represent them because he shares their views. It's not the politicians that are crazy, it's the people who vote for them. We have seen the enemy and it is us.

  • rk21 on November 02, 2012 12:27 PM:

    I will believe this only when he actually loses. I find it hard to believe that they are overwhelmingly going to vote for Romney and Pence and against a republican senator. I have no trust in republican voters. Somehow they will convince themselves that the party will control Murdock and vote for him. If I am wrong than I will have underestimated the sanity of republicans.

  • Ashbee on November 02, 2012 12:59 PM:

    I for one think this is an inevitability of being stuck in a misinformation feedback loop then suddenly trying to interact with the general public who lies outside of that loop.

  • TCinLA on November 02, 2012 1:36 PM:

    Richard Mourdock is a Good Christian who always says what he beleives as he witnesses for his Lord and Savior.

    May the Republicans continue to field more Good Christians just like him.

  • BJ smith on November 02, 2012 2:32 PM:

    Repubs have no one but themselves to blame. Hopefully this country does not want extremists in charge of our country. For God's sake men like Akin & Mourdock would have been laughed off the stage just a few short years ago. It is going to take a long time for sanity to arrive back in that party. If you have been keeping up you know if Romney should eke out a win,Norquist will be the decider, Romney the digit signer & Ryan the head. They have been very successful in getting rid of sane Republicans. How many Americans have lost their minds? We will find out next Tuesday.

  • Robert Waldmann on November 02, 2012 3:34 PM:

    Missouri is a Dem keep, so by your calculation the Republicans would be down 5 with Indiana and Maine.

    But of the 8 tossups (Arizona, Massachusetts, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska (not really a tossup) Nevada, Virginia Wisconsin) 3 are currently Republican (Arizona, Nevada and Massachusetts) so to get to 51 Republicans would have to win 9 out of 8 not 7 out of 8.

    If we say that Nebraska is really likely Republican (it is) and call Connecticut (or New Mexico, Florida, Pennsylvania hell why not New York) a toss up (none is) then Republicans can get to 51 by winning only 8 out of 8 tossups including Massachusetts where Brown is well behind.

    It's not going to happen. Majority leader McConnell's minimal chances are mostly require either that Ryan is vice president or that King caucuses as a Republican or both.

  • Zorro on November 02, 2012 3:41 PM:

    It doesn't matter. Again: if you don't think that the GOP will steal this election, then you haven't been paying attention. Or did you forget all the "voter fraud" laws and their clear intent to rig the game? What about Diebold and Ohio in '04? Or the Brooks Brothers riot in '00?

    Let me put it this way: in a just world, the GOP would get slaughtered next Tues. But not only is this not a just world, it's Orwell's world. Lies are honesty- just ask Mitt Romney, who's even lying when he introduces himself (his name is Willard- like the rat). Expertise is proof of unsuitability for office. And rank, manifest stupidity is considered proof of "genuine-ness," and therefore the ultimate mark of qualification for the highest office in the land.

    I really hope that I'm wrong. But, in my experience, Murphy was an optimist.


    PS: the CAPTCHA- "wickedness ecludi." Not sure about the 2nd word, but the 1st sure fits.

  • Doug on November 02, 2012 4:46 PM:

    What we're seeing here in Indiana, I think, is that there ARE non-batsh*t crazy Republicans and when the true face of today's GOP candidate is presented to them, they neither like it nor will they support it.
    What's taken so long for this to haapen, I believe, is that for far, far too long, a sane, partisan Republican has accepted way too many semi-plausible excuses by Republican candidates about their being "misquoted", etc by those nasty Democrats and that liberal media. Mourdock blew any chance for those Republicans to hide behind that lame excuses!
    A vote for Mourdock means a vote for someone who would use the power of the Federal government to force YOU, if your female, to bear the child of your rapist. He would force your WIFE or DAUGHTER or SISTER or a female FRIEND to bear the child of her rapist. Mourdock's forced Republican voters here in Indiana to actually LOOK at who they're voting for and not just at whether or not there's an "R" behind the name and, apparently, a lot of Republican voters don't like what they see.
    Imagine that...