Democrat Joe Donnelly triumphed Tuesday in one of the nation’s most tumultuous Senate races, capitalizing on fallout over his tea party-backed opponent’s comment that a pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended” to capture a seat that just a year ago looked to be a lock for Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.
Donnelly beat state treasurer Richard Mourdock after a bruising campaign that saw outside groups pump millions of dollars into the state in a race viewed by many as a test of the tea party’s strength.
The victory was a coup for Democrats, who had been waiting years for a shot at the seat. Lugar was so popular that in 2006 Democrats decided not to challenge him.
Even a year ago, Lugar seemed a safe bet to win a seventh term, despite widespread conservative anger with the veteran statesman’s votes on divisive legislation and his support for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. But questions about Lugar’s residency combined with a flood of outside spending by groups such as the anti-tax Club for Growth carried Mourdock to a 20-point victory in the May primary.