Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Indiana Senate: A Tale of Two Statesmen

Senator Dick Lugar's concession speech

Richard Mourdock has defeated six-term Senator Dick Lugar, 61% to 39%, in Indiana's Republican primary.

Dick Lugar is a statesman. I had my doubts about that, but it was driven home when I learned that Lugar would debate his opponent Richard Mourdock. Roy Blunt never did that in his 2010 primary for US Senate here in Missouri. That's the typical path for a well-known candidate: simply ignore the competition and deny your unknown opponent the opportunity to raise their name recognition. Lugar didn't do that. He debated Richard Mourdock and that choice contributed to Mourdock's margin of victory.

Lugar must have known he was in trouble. As I reported earlier, he spent $46k in February on polling and didn't leak any of it to the press. Campaigns only leak positive news, so he must not have had any. And yet he went ahead with that debate. That solidified my respect for Indiana's senior senator.

I'm surprised at the margin of victory. As I reported, Lugar's FEC reports show that he spent over $100k on phone banking and VoIP equipment. I saw that Lugar's campaign made over 1.5 million phone calls. That sort of phone banking operation must be a record for Indiana primary races.

Those of you who tirelessly manned the phones for Lugar--I know it's a tough day--but you are the heroes of Lugar's campaign. I can't even imagine what it must have been like calling into an electorate opposed to your guy 60/40, but you did it 1.5 million times. I'm sure that was demoralizing.

If you were part of that operation, then you need to plan to be Republican heroes in November. The GOP presidential nominee is going to need your help--probably not in Indiana, but almost certainly calling into an electorate somewhere in the country that's more favorable than the one you just faced. This primary was preparation for the general election and you are now battle hardened. Good work.

Richard Mourdock's heroes were the countless people across the state that followed the advice in Phyllis Schlafly's 1964 book A Choice Not an Echo and simply took over the party. Schlafly endorsed Mourdock last October. Here's Schlafly talking about the Tea Parties and political strategy:

In St. Louis, I've been impressed by the new media skills of Tea Partiers. Indiana Tea Parties have shown that it's possible to marshal the Republican party to a Tea Party candidate. I'm sure it was a wild ride, but you need to teach the rest of us how to do that.

There are many contributing factors to Lugar's loss, but I think the biggest one is encapsulated in Richard Mourdock's campaign slogan: "It's Time." Lugar served America as a faithful and bipartisan cold warrior with particular attention to international affairs. In recent years, he pushed green energy issues. For instance, he supported Indianapolis based EnerDel with earmarks and, I believe, the occasional favorable word to the Department of Energy to help that battery manufacturer secure more funding.

I'm opposed to those green energy policies, but I never found a circle of government money to EnerDel and donations from EnerDel to Dick Lugar. In Missouri, the Carnahan family wind farm is infamous. Furthermore, Dick Lugar drives a Prius, so he's committed to green energy on a personal level. In contrast, here's Russ Carnahan arriving at an event in an SUV.

Lugar's bipartisanship may have been his undoing because there is simply nothing more bipartisan than additional spending. Spending is the lubricant of bipartisanship. That's what legislative logrolling is all about.

The US has about $15.7 trillion in debt. The age of more spending is behind us; therefore, bipartisanship is increasingly a thing of the past. And that debt curtails our need for international statesmen. Regardless of whether we want to be involved around the world, our financial obligations necessitate that we wont be spending as much overseas. We're entering a time of introspection driven by the fundamental need to reduce our debt. I think Hoosier voters understood this.

The leaders of each age are molded by issues of their time. Lugar's bipartisanship, international outreach, earmarks, and opposition to gun issues (which I suspect was a result of his time as mayor of Indianapolis) are simply lodestones in today's political environment. There are similarities between statesmen from different eras, but these tend to be personal characteristics: humility, humor, resolve, vision. Both Dick Lugar and Richard Mourdock have evidenced these characteristics. Because Mourdock is new on the scene I encourage you to watch these two videos which capture his conviction:

Dick Lugar's time as an active statesman is coming to an end. I'm confident that Richard Mourdock will fill the vacuum left by his departure. He wont replace Dick Lugar, but he will honor Lugar's service in the cold-war by working tirelessly to address our country's fiscal problems.

Indiana can be proud that it has groomed men like Dick Lugar and Richard Mourdock--statesmen of their respective eras--for service to this country. As a fellow American, I'm grateful that you have.

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