Senate & Congress: Winners and losers
Richard Mourdock:Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who proclaimed during the campaign that pregnancy from rape was “something that God intended to happen”, failed to get elected, handing another seat to the Democrats.
In 2010 the Democrats lost a Senate seat in Indiana. As a result, for the past two years the Republicans had two senators from the state, where hitherto the spoils had been divided evenly.
Mourdock, a darling of the extremist pro-Republican Tea Party movement who trounced moderate Republican Richard Lugar to win the party’s nomination, was initially expected to see off Democrat candidate Congressman Joe Donnelly. However, Mourdock made his remarks about God’s intentions in a TV debate with Donnelly and later stood by his comments. His ratings plunged afterwards.
One piece of good news for the Tea Party was the narrow victory in Minnesota of Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. She defeated her Democrat challenger, businessman Jim Graves, by a margin of just over 4,200 votes.
Bachmann, an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican Party presidential nomination, founded the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives and has been a strident critic of President Obama, prompting comparisons with former vice-presidential candidate and former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin.
In 2008, she called the president “anti-American” and during the recent campaign accused President Obama of “apology and appeasement across the globe”. A centrepiece of her campaign was her demand that the president’s healthcare law be repealed.
The election has given the US Congress its first openly gay senator. Tammy Baldwin (50), a liberal Democrat from the college town of Madison, Wisconsin, narrowly defeated former Republican state governor Tommy Thompson (70). Baldwin’s victory has great symbolic importance for the lesbian and gay community and for the left in Wisconsin. She is also the first woman senator from the state. “Tonight we have won a huge victory for Wisconsin,” Ms Baldwin said as the ballroom erupted in cheers and the clattering of cowbells. “I am well aware that I will have the honour to be Wisconsin’s first woman US senator . . . and I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate – but I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”Ms Baldwin’s sexual orientation was never a major topic on the campaign trail.
Missouri Republican US Senate candidate Todd Akin, who sparked a controversy in August with comments about “legitimate rape”, was defeated by Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill.
Until the rape comment, Akin was considered the favourite to beat McCaskill. But the race reversed course after his comment to a television station that women have natural defences against pregnancy from “legitimate rape”. The comment drew scorn from state and national Republican leaders who called on him to drop out of the race.
Akin apologised but refused to withdraw.
“There is something close to a consensus that he did himself in,” said John Petrocik, a political science professor at the University of Missouri.
McCaskill was one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats after failing to pay taxes on a private family plane.