Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Richard Mourdock: Blazing a New Trail to Victory

In Indiana, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is blazing a trail to clear the way for future conservative grassroots (Tea Party) campaigns against entrenched interests and their proxies in the US Senate like Mourdock's primary opponent, Dick Lugar. Allysia Finley of the Wall Street Journal wrote about Mourdock's insurgent campaign earlier this week and concluded [emphasis added]:
Mr. Mourdock isn't endearing himself to the party's elders by picking a fight with Grandpa. But Republicans need fighters in the Senate, not diplomats. President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have shown no intention of negotiating in good faith with Republicans. So accomplishing tax and entitlement reform will require the GOP to win the war of public opinion. Indiana's gutsy and articulate tea partier is just the kind of guy Republicans need on the frontlines.
I will take exception to the line in bold above. It was Indiana's Republican party elders that came to Mourdock and asked him to run. In February of last year Mourdock had the support of over three-quarters of Indiana Republican County Chairmen. Here he is explaining that:

It's the establishment elders of the Republican apparatus in DC that have opposed Mourdock and fought instead to conserve the status quo. In winning the support of Indiana's GOP county chairmen, Richard Mourdock had taken the first step to state-wide victory. A step articulate by Phyllis Schlafly in her 1964 book: A Choice Not an Echo. I interviewed Schlafly about that book two years ago. Here she is talking about the importance of having a plan to take over the party:

Mourdock also benefited from a grassroots groundswell of Tea Party support. In September of last year, Indiana Tea Parties confirmed the sentiments of the GOP county chairmen when they voted 96 to 1 in favor of Mourdock.

With that kind of grassroots support, groups like Schlafly's Eagle Forum have endorsed Richard Mourdock. In fact, Mourdock has benefited from numerous, conservative endorsements while Lugar has gotten the dubious endorsements of John McCain and Arlene Specter.

Endorsements and grassroots support for a candidate are useless unless they are galvanized into the party apparatus. Utah provides two illustrative examples. In 2010 Tea Partiers were able to force Bob Bennet into a primary and ultimately elect Tea Party favorite Mike Lee. This year they've forced Orrin Hatch into a primary. Grassroots success in Utah is in part due to the unique system that state uses to select their candidates. At the state party convention, if a candidate does not receive 60% of the vote from the delegates, then they must run against the person who received the second most delegate votes in a state-wide primary. Hopefully, Dan Liljenquist will be able to unseat 36-year incumbent Orrin Hatch.

The system in Utah favors the candidates who are able to get their supporters to show up to the state convention. It also clears the field of tertiary candidates that bleed money and activists from the most credible challenger. I'd love to see that system adopted in my own state of Missouri.

In the 2010 US Senate GOP primary in Missouri, Tea Party favorite Chuck Purgason had good grassroots support; however, there were other, credible Tea Party challengers in that race. Purgason's real problem was that he was never able to overcome his money deficit. He simply couldn't afford the radio and TV airtime he needed to boost his name recognition.

Garnering a groundswell of grassroots support to transform the state party is the first step. The second step in the plan is money, lots and lots of money.

The reality is that state-wide elections are driven by name recognition. They are, sadly, popularity contests.

Unfortunately, conservative grassroots activists rarely have the money to make a difference. In 2010, when establishment conservative interests aligned with Tea Party interests, funding was readily available from establishment sources for Tea Party candidates. In 2012 that's no longer the case. Without the money to mount the air war on TV and radio, Tea Party candidates have little chance of beating their incumbent opponents.

In Indiana Club 4 Growth, the NRA, and FreedomWorks have funded significant portions of the air war. It remains to be seen if that will be sufficient to push Mourdock over the top on May 8th, but, for now, it's enough to give him a shot. A recent poll shows Mourdock has the momentum to unseat Lugar.

Mourdock now has to confront an onslaught from Lugar's DC PACs. I will have a post about who's mounting Lugar's counter attack soon.

Update: Thanks to Smitty at the OtherMcCain for the link!

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