Indiana Senate Moves to Pure Toss-Up

October 24, 2012 · 2:45 PM EDT

Just when it looked like state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) might have been starting to gain his footing in the Indiana Senate race, an unforced error may have wiped away any small advantage he had in the race.

In Tuesday’s debate with Rep. Joe Donnelly (D), in response to a question about abortion, Mourdock said “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something God intended to happen.”

Even though Democrats immediately likened the situation to GOP Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about rape a few weeks ago in Missouri, there are some differences- specifically that Donnelly is also pro-life and has co-sponsored controversial legislation with Akin that would restrict access to abortion.

But the bottom line is that Mourdock is in a very competitive race and couldn’t afford a mistake. There was some evidence that he had finally started to consolidate Republican support that had been on the sidelines since he defeated Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary. But it’s unclear whether his recent comments make it more difficult for him to attract the moderate Republican support he needs in order to win.

Before the debate, we continued to give Mourdock the narrowest of advantages. Even in the face of Democratic polling, we believed that Mitt Romney’s strong showing in the state would likely be enough to boost the GOP nominee on Election Day.

Even though it will be a few days until we see polling to see if indeed Mourdock’s comments were damaging, but we can longer give the Republican a distinct edge in the race.