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Mourdock fading in race for Senate, poll suggests

The results of an independent poll released Friday indicate Democrat Joe Donnelly has built a lead over Republican Richard Mourdock ahead of Tuesday’s election for Indiana’s U.S. Senate seat.

Donnelly led Mourdock by 11 percentage points, 47 percent to 36 percent, according to the survey commissioned by the website Howey Politics Indiana and DePauw University.

The same poll found that Hoosier voters preferred three Republican candidates – gubernatorial nominee Mike Pence, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney – to their Democratic opponents.

In the poll of 800 likely voters, taken Sunday through Tuesday, Libertarian Senate candidate Andrew Horning was favored by 6 percent of respondents and 11 percent were undecided.

Mourdock’s campaign challenged the accuracy of the poll and called on Brian Howey to release more information. Mourdock’s campaign also pointed to a social-media statement by one of the pollsters, Republican Christine Matthews, who had written on Twitter: “One thing I would say is #insen poll shows a likely Donnelly win but not by 11 points on Election Day. Captured the moment 1 week out.”

State Treasurer Mourdock defeated six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in the May 8 Republican primary election. A few days ahead of the election, which Mourdock won by 21 percentage points, a Howey-DePauw poll indicated Mourdock was ahead by 10 percentage points.

The latest Howey/DePauw survey asked respondents whether they knew about Mourdock’s comment about abortion, made at an Oct. 23 debate, and whether the remark made it more or less likely they would vote for him. Mourdock had said that pregnancy resulting from rape “is something that God intended to happen” – a remark that attracted nationwide media coverage.

Six percent of poll respondents said the comment made it more likely they would vote for Mourdock, 40 percent said it was less likely, and 54 percent said the remark made no difference in their voting intentions.

Rep. Donnelly, D-2nd, had led Mourdock by 2 percentage points – considered an even race because of the margin of error – in a September poll commissioned by Howey/DePauw. His lead in this week’s poll ballooned in part thanks to female and independent voters.

The percentage of women who favored Donnelly grew from 41 percent to 50 percent, and the percentage of independents who favored Donnelly increased from 32 percent to 51 percent, the latest poll found.

The percentage of women who favored Mourdock declined from 35 percent to 31.5 percent, and the percentage of independents favoring him dropped from 30 percent to 17 percent.

In other results from this week’s Howey/DePauw poll:

•Rep. Pence, R-6th, had a 47-40 lead over Democrat John Gregg in the gubernatorial contest, with 5 percent of respondents favoring Libertarian Rupert Boneham and the rest undecided.

•GOP incumbent Bennett had a 40-36 lead over Democrat Glenda Ritz in the race for superintendent of public instruction, with 24 percent undecided.

•Romney led President Obama 50-41, with 7 percent of respondents undecided and 2 percent backing Libertarian Gary Johnson.