EVANSVILLE — Pain and dismay melted into a warm embrace when the political supporters who know Richard Mourdock best told him exactly how they still feel about him.
Acknowledging the greetings of friends even as he spoke to a reporter before a Republican dinner Friday, Mourdock said he too is ready to move past his crushing 11th-hour defeat from a self-inflicted wound in last year’s U.S. Senate race.
Mourdock, Indiana’s state treasurer and a Vanderburgh County resident, is a veteran of many local, congressional and statewide campaigns. He has lost some and won some.
“I’ll be honest, this one was very difficult to lose,” he said seconds before U.S. Sen. Dan Coats stepped forward to pump his hand.
Nobody at Friday night’s Vanderburgh County GOP Lincoln Day dinner at The Centre would have been at a loss to guess what Mourdock was talking about.
Most political observers agreed two weeks before the Nov. 6 election that Mourdock was on track to win the Senate race, albeit narrowly and with significant help from other GOP candidates. Republicans were widely expected to steamroll Democrats from top to bottom in Indiana elections.
But Mourdock’s campaign effectively ended in an instant Oct. 23, when he was asked about abortion rights during a live televised debate in New Albany.
His answer amounted to political suicide.
“I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” he said.
In the furor that followed, Mourdock tried to clarify and explain his remarks. He said he supports abortion rights only when a mother’s life is in danger, but he hadn’t meant that he believes God intends for rapes to happen. He protested that Democrats were willfully distorting his words for political gain.