INDIANAPOLIS | Faced with poll results showing Republican Richard Mourdock is likely to lose Indiana's U.S. Senate race, Mourdock's campaign on Friday all but ignored his opponent, Democrat Joe Donnelly, and instead launched a bizarre assault on the poll itself.
The campaign issued 24 statements via Twitter over a three-hour period, or one every seven minutes, that alternately condemned the results of the Howey/DePauw University Indiana Battleground Poll, accused the pollsters of partisan bias, demanded more data and urged Hoosiers not to believe that Donnelly leads Mourdock by 11 points.
The Howey poll, co-sponsored by The Times, found Donnelly ahead of Mourdock 47 percent to 36 percent, with 6 percent supporting Libertarian Andrew Horning and 11 percent undecided. The Oct. 28-30 telephone survey of 800 likely voters has a margin of error of plus- or minus-3.5 percent.
Republican pollster Christine Matthews and Democratic pollster Fred Yang collaborated to produce the Howey poll.
An April survey by the same bipartisan pollsters correctly forecast Mourdock's primary election victory over U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind. Their September poll found Donnelly and Mourdock statistically tied.
But that was before Mourdock said during the Oct. 23 debate that he believes pregnancies caused by rape are "something that God intended to happen."
The new poll found 87 percent of Hoosiers are aware of Mourdock's remarks on abortion, rape and God's will, and 40 percent said they are less likely to vote for Mourdock as a result. Just 6 percent said they are more likely to vote for Mourdock.
However, Mourdock's internal pollster, John McLaughlin, told reporters during an 8 a.m. region time conference call, that Matthews and Yang have been wrong all along.
He said Mourdock was up 6 points prior to the final debate, dipped slightly afterward and now leads Donnelly by 2.
"The number of undecideds is falling, and they're going into our column based on the issues we've been talking about," McLaughlin said.
Mourdock's campaign briefly stopped tweeting midafternoon Friday after several Twitter followers questioned whether Mourdock's team was becoming "unhinged."
Donnelly spokeswoman Elizabeth Shappell said the Democrat has no plans to change his campaign strategy now that he's the front runner. Donnelly met with voters Friday morning at Valparaiso's Blackbird Cafe.
"Joe is working to receive support from Hoosiers of all parties. He will continue to work nonstop traveling the state, earning every vote before Election Day," Shappell said. "It is clear voters are rejecting Richard Mourdock's 'my way or the highway' approach to politics and responding to Joe's message of Hoosier common sense."