Democrats capitalized on the remarks Wednesday, holding press calls and press conferences and cutting Web ads tying Romney to Mourdock. Donnelly appeared in downtown Indianapolis in front of the Julian Center, which counsels victims of rape, sex trafficking and abuse.
"It is hurtful to women, to survivors of rape and to their families," Donnelly said. "His words were extreme, but more important, hurtful to victims of sexual abuse."
Mourdock refashioned himself at the end of the summer, moving away from the tea party rhetoric that carried him to victory over Lugar and attempting to refocus the race on Donnelly's vote in support of the federal health care law.
Throughout a political career that dates back to the 1980s, Mourdock always has maintained that he opposes abortion except in cases where the life of the mother is at risk.
Donnelly opposes abortion but supports exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother. However, the Democrat was among more than 200 lawmakers, most of them Republicans, who backed legislation last year that would have cut off federal aid for abortion services, even in cases of rape and incest. A spokeswoman later said the congressman didn't realize the bill would go that far.
It was still unclear Wednesday whether Mourdock's comments would hurt his chances in Indiana, a state that has increasingly become dominated by social conservatives over the last few election cycles. A federal appeals court blocked the Indiana General Assembly's effort to defund Planned Parenthood earlier Tuesday and state lawmakers will likely consider legislation next year to allow the teaching of Creationism.
Downtown Indianapolis workers taking their lunch break in the warm October sunshine for the most part said they didn't think Mourdock meant his remark the way it sounded, but they hadn't intended to vote for him anyway. Most said they hadn't watched the debate but had heard the buzz about what Mourdock said.
"It came across as that's God's will for that woman to be raped," said Judy Stratom, a 50-year-old administrative worker. "I don't think that's what he meant, but that's the way the world took it."
"I honestly don't think he meant to say that rape was a gift from God," said office worker Saundra Taylor, 48, who was relaxing on a bench on the steps of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. "I think he could have worded it better."
Associated Press writer Charles D. Wilson in Indianapolis contributed to this report.
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