Photo: Adam Fagen (Flickr)
Six-term incumbent Senator Richard Lugar has not had a primary challenger since he was first elected in 1976. His first challenger in five re-election attempts is Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party favorite.
The primary fight between Richard Mourdock and Richard Lugar really began back in the middle of 2010, when Mourdock was approached by Republican Party members who he says were frustrated and felt like Lugar had fallen out of touch with Hoosiers.
Mourdock admits he had some initial doubts when they asked him to run against the long-time senator.
“I was shocked, obviously flattered,” he says. “I often said to them, ‘What did I ever do to you?’ I mean, I felt like I was being thrown under a bus a bit.”
The Impacts Of Negative Advertising
Since he announced he would run, the race has taken a decidedly negative turn. The ads airing across the state on TV and radio are almost entirely attacks from charges that Lugar isn’t a real Hoosier to claims that Mourdock isn’t a true conservative and will do and say whatever it takes to win an election. But Mourdock says he has run a fair campaign.
I wish that either people had dispersed their money over several campaigns or that Indiana was not the entire focus of this kind of negative advertising.
—Sen. Richard Lugar
“The campaign we’ve been running, all those commercials that have my voice saying, ‘I’m Richard Mourdock and I approve this message,’ always talk about the votes of Mr. Lugar,” Mourdock says.
A lot of the negativity has been generated by groups outside Indiana pouring money into the state. Mourdock says he’s disappointed by the power of the so-called SuperPACs, and that’s an area where Lugar says he agrees.
“I wish that either people had dispersed their money over several campaigns or that Indiana was not the entire focus of this kind of negative advertising,” he says.
National Eyes On Indiana
Part of the reason that such national attention has turned to the race is that it represents a fundamental shift in the Republican Party—a schism between people like Lugar, a bipartisan lawmaker once called President Obama’s favorite Republican, and Mourdock, who says that way of thinking doesn’t work.
“It is bipartisanship that has taken us to the brink of bankruptcy,” We don’t need bipartisanship. We need principle,” Mourdock says. “One side or the other must prevail here.”
But Lugar says that angle won’t be effective.
“It’ll be interesting watching him rant and rave but in terms of actually getting anything done, persuading anybody to do anything, the answer will be about a result of zero.”
Lugar says there is sometimes a need for bipartisan action.
“It’s not a question of giving up your views, becoming less conservative,” he says. “It’s a question of becoming more persuasive, of having the better arguments.”
We need principle. One side or the other must prevail here.
—Treasurer Richard Mourdock
It’s precisely that frame of mind that led, in part, to Governor Mitch Daniels’ decision to publicly endorse Lugar in the primary. Daniels says he counts both Mourdock and Lugar as good friends, but his personal relationship with Lugar goes back more than 40 years.
“I felt I owed it to him and I happen to think he’s a tremendous asset for this state that we’d be less well off without,” Daniels says.
Mourdock says he understands some personal ties trump politics…such as the fact that Lugar is the godfather to Daniels’ oldest daughter. But he says he doesn’t think Daniels’ endorsement will shift the balance of the vote.
On election night, it will not just be Hoosiers watching Indiana’s Senate race. Pundits and voters alike will tune in to see what once would have been considered unthinkable – a possible Richard Lugar defeat.