Mourdock Likely Narrow Win
Polling trends are not necessarily accurate but give ideas, and probably approximate trend lines if not the actual numbers:
Mourdock poll: Mourdock with lead (but significant lead before debate, cratered afternoon but only one polling day afterward)
Donnelly poll: Donnelly up by 7 with Hornig the Libertarian counted, 9 without the Libertarian (as I have been saying, the Libertarian candidate is hurting Donnelly not Mourdock)
Rassmussen poll this past Friday: Donnelly slight lead
Simply put, as almost everyone already knew, the debate nearly sunk Mourdock but did not completely do so. He went from a lead, to significantly behind, to crawling back into the race and trending upwards.
Here are some of the reasons I expect Mourdock to win narrowly, though he could still lose.
1) This is a Republican year, in a Republican state. I simply do not believe that, once voting, Republicans who vote for Romney, then likely 7 of 9 congressional districts for a Republican Member of Congress, will turn around and throw away that vote by voting Obama for the Senate. (Obviously Joe is personally more conservative than the President but that is irrelevant with the potential control of the Senate at stake - his election will result in giving Obama Democrats control of all committees, judges, and treaty approval for example.)
2) This is likely to be a year of higher party loyalty, not less. The issues are polarizing.
3) The Republicans are at least as likely to vote as 2008 and Democrats, especially in the major urban areas, less likely especially the two highest percentage Democrat groups - African-American and youth voters. They are still for Obama but without the excitement. Electing the first African heritage President of the United States was a one-time historic breakthrough that many never thought would occur. It is not the same. Plus the idealistic purism is gone.
4) Richard Mourdock and his supporters have successfully drilled home the point that this is a choice of whether to give Obama control of the Senate. If someone opposed to Obama votes for Donnelly, they chose animus to Mourdock over public policy. In other words, they think giving Obama control of the Senate is of less concern to them than being represented by Mourdock.
5) Mourdock's incredibly poorly chosen way to express his religious views (which do not include that God plans a rape) merely solidified a broader concern in many Hoosier's minds: the effective early ads about "my way or the highway" by Donnelly against Mourdock, followed by highlighting his questioning the constitutionality of the department of social security and education (which is different than saying you would abolish them) and his "inflicting his views upon others" (which Obama Democrats do every day) gave an impression of a judgemental, not exactly friendly guy that the abortion related comment re-enforced. But Mourdock has won statewide several times, was a county commissioner and has, in fact, worked with both sides though he is very conservative.
6) Not only did Mourdock not run the most effective personal campaign, but Donnelly has made few if any errors. I know him and he is: 1) truly likable 2) not as liberal as some would say 3) pro-life in most cases (remember, he - not Mourdock - is, like Mike Pence, a co-sponsor of the pro-life bill that defines different types of rape. The "my way or the highway" humorous ads had a stickiness (that is, resonated and had memorable content).
All things considered, a very close race. I think Mourdock by at least 2% over Donnelly, possibly 4%. A lot depends upon Democrat turnout in Marion and Lake counties. If Donnelly wins, Republican congressional candidates Walorski in South Bend and Buschon in Evansville could also be in trouble.