Monday, December 26, 2011

Indiana Senate: Dick Lugar v. Richard Mourdock

Dick Lugar (R-IN) is running for his seventh term in the US Senate. I guess, his work in that august body is incomplete even after 35 years of service there. He was interviewed by CNN for the segment above which aired Christmas Day. Toward the end of the interview, Lugar is asked about the GOP primary race for US Senate in which he faces Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock (R-IN).


Lugar played up his grassroots credentials [from]:
"Certainly unique, I think, in the Senate, of having been a farmer, a small businessman, a Naval officer, a mayor, a school board member. These are grassroots functions that people are dealing with."
Lugar served as the Mayor of Indianapolis from January 1st, 1968 until January 1st, of 1976. While serving as mayor of a small town might be considered a grassroots function, serving as mayor of a major American city is not. Lugar's school board service was also in Indianapolis which, again, isn't anything like serving on the school board of a small town. Wikipedia notes his school board tenure briefly: "Lugar served on the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners from 1964 to 1967." So was Lugar elected to serve on the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners or was he appointed? An appointment wouldn't be very grassroots, but it would be cronyism.

It appears to me that Lugar's most recent grassroots activism was during the Kennedy administration and, maybe, the first year of the Johnson administration. Therefore, for him to make any claim to grassroots credentials today is preposterous.

Run to the Right

But, what really offended me was Lugar's play for Tea Party voters [from]:
“A Republican majority in the Senate is very important, and Republicans who are running for reelection ought to be supported by people who want to see that majority,” Lugar said in an interview which aired Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. 
“I think the majority of Tea Party people understand that too,” he added.
Tea Partiers understand that far better than Lugar and his establishment GOP allies. Back to
Lugar who is facing a tough primary challenge from Tea Party-backed Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) said he was the best GOP option to win the seat and that past attempts by grassroots groups to install candidates they found more conservative had backfired. 
"If I was not the nominee it might be lost," he said of his seat. "Republicans lost the seats before in Nevada and New Jersey and Colorado where there were people who were claiming they wanted somebody who was more of their Tea Party aspect but they killed off the Republican majority."
I'm not sure who he's thinking about in New Jersey and Colorado, but, in part, I agree with Lugar's premise. I think that Tea Party candidates for US Senate in Nevada, Delaware, and Alaska were defeated because they were on the fringe. Alaska is interesting, because Tea Party favorite Joe Miller lost to incumbent, establishment Republican write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). That would seem to discredit Lugar's premise that Tea Party candidates cost Republicans seats in the US Senate.

But there's even stronger evidence to undermine Lugar's premise: Mike Lee (R-UT),  Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY). All three were elected to the US Senate with significant Tea Party backing. In Mike Lee's race in Utah, incumbent Republican Bob Bennett was eliminated prior to the primary.

Electoral Maneuvers

Tea Partiers in Utah were able to organize and take over the Republican party apparatus. At their state's 2010 Republican Convention, conservatives voted overwhelmingly for Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater eliminating Bennet from the primary ballot.

The mechanisms of elections vary from state to state, but a similar thing is happening in the Hoosier state. Richard Mourdock has garnered the support of Indiana Tea Parties. Perhaps more importantly, Mourdock has won the support of 75% of Indiana's Republican Party county chairmen. That's an unheard of level of grassroots GOP support for a challenger. There's no way to eliminate an incumbent in Indiana as happened in Utah in 2010, so Mourdock is now in a brutal fundraising battle against his entrenched, establishment opponent, Dick Lugar.

In my opinion, Tea Partiers from around the country need to plugin to Richard Mourdock's campaign if they want to help him beat President Obama's favorite Republican Senator. Mourdock does not have the fundraising ability of a six term Senator. He's got good boots on the ground in Indiana, but he's going to need phone support in the run up to game day: the May 8th primary. You can also help push his message on social media like TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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