Howey-DePauw Poll: Joe Donnelly has double-digit lead over Richard Mourdock

Gap widens in U.S. Senate race

INDIANAPOLIS - The latest Howey-DePauw poll released early Friday showed Democratic U.S. Senate Candidate Joe Donnelly with a double-digit lead over GOP challenger Richard Mourdock, widening the gap in the race.

The poll shows Donnelly leading Mourdock 47 to 36, with Libertarian Andy Horning at 6 percent and 11 percent undecided.

For months, the polls had shown Mourdock and Donnelly neck-and-neck.

The same poll shows the governor's race tightening, with Republican Mike Pence, who once held a double-digit lead, now leading Democrat John Gregg by just 47 to 40, with Libertarian Rupert Boneham at 5 percent and 8 percent undecided.

Howey says Mourdock isn't winning the independents or the moderate Republicans he alienated with his attacks on Richard Lugar last spring.

"Seventeen percent of the independents say they're going to vote for Richard Mourdock. That's a major problem," said Brian Howey, with Howey Politics Indiana. "You can't win an election in Indiana unless you get a sizable segment of the independents."

Mourdock said his own polls show him bouncing back from the rape comments.

"I don't worry about it. There's one poll that counts, that's Nov. 6," Mourdock said. "I know we're going to win. I'm incredibly confident. I feel the buzz."

But Democrats and many analysts believe Mourdock has blown it.

"Since the comments in the debate, Richard Mourdock has plummeted in the polls, because he confirmed to everybody that he's a tea party extremist," said Indiana Democratic Chairman Dan Parker.

RTV6 Political Insider Lara Beck agreed.

"I think the Senate race is over. I that Congressman Donnelly is going to beat Richard Mourdock," Beck said. "And I think it's going to be by a fairly decent margin. So I think that'll probably be one of the first races that's called on Election Night."

Some believe Mourdock could pull it out with a strong turnout from tea party and pro-life supporters, but probably won't.

"No one should be surprised," said RTV6 Political Insider Abdul-Hakim Shabazz. "I mean, we've seen some of the shifts. Mr. Mourdock had started losing ground prior, right around the time that those comments were made."

Several analysts believe Mourdock is dragging Pence down, but that Pence is still a strong favorite. 

The same poll shows Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama 50 to 41 in Indiana, and it shows Democrat Glenda Ritz making a strong challenge to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, who leads by only 4 percent. 

The poll is the first independent survey to be publicly released since Mourdock's controversial statements on rape and abortion.

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