(CNN) - Democrats scored a major upset in the Indiana race for U.S. Senate Tuesday, scooping up a seat in the deeply red state Republicans had expected to hold. The campaign appeared to turn for the Democrats after the GOP candidate made controversial comments about rape during a televised debate.
CNN projected Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly would beat Republican Richard Mourdock, boosting the Democrats' chances of maintaining control of the Senate. Donnelly led 48 percent to 46 percent with 70 percent of the estimated vote counted at the time of the projection.
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Mourdock, the State Treasurer, was backed by both tea party supporters and the Republican establishment when he defeated longtime GOP moderate Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary. When that happened, Democrats thought Donnelly, who is conservative and pro-life, had an outside chance of winning the seat.
Mourdock gave Donnelly an opening when during a debate he defended his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape because, "I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something God intended to happen." Top Democrats and Republicans criticized the remark and within days, Donnelly took a substantial lead in one respected Indiana poll.
Republicans had hoped the heavily GOP and pro-life voters in Indiana would rally behind Mourdock and provide him a margin of victory.