Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mourdock Appears to Have Gained Control of U.S. Senate Race; What to Expect in the Three Weeks Ahead

In the campaign to unseat six term incumbent Senator Richard Lugar, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock appears to have climbed into the driver's seat.  Were the election to be held today, I think Mourdock would win. 
State Treasurer
Richard Mourdock

People might wonder why I'd say that when Lugar held a 41-34 lead in a recent independent poll.  The fact though is that undecideds almost always break sharply for the challenger.  When an incumbent, especially a six year incumbent is under 50% he or she is considered to be in deep trouble.  Lugar barely broke 40%.

Another consideration is that Mourdock outraised Lugar during the last reporting period.  Big contributors like to give to a winner.  The fact that the money is now going to Mourdock suggests those contributors think he is going to win. 

How can Lugar win?  His only option left is to go sharply negative on Mourdock, to trash him so badly that even though Lugar is no longer liked many in the Republican base, they would fear Mourdock's nomination more.  That won't be easy for the six term Senator who has always tried to portray himself as above politics.

How will Mourdock respond?  In addition to answering the charges and calling Lugar "desperate" (the favorite word of the campaign season), Mourdock is likely to soon go warm and fuzzy, to try to reassure Republican primary voters that they have nothing to fear from him should he capture the nomination.  These strategies would strongly suggest that the Lugar camp knows he is behind and the Mourdock campaign is trying to put the former champion away by lasting out the final few rounds and winning on points.

What else to look for?  Expect that Governor Daniels and Attorney General Zoeller to make formal endorsements of Richard Lugar in a week or so, a fact Lugar will promote extensively  To the GOP establishment crowd who often struggle to think outside the political box, those endorsements are powerful.  The problem though is that to the voters with whom Lugar is having the most trouble, those endorsements are not at all persuasive and can, in fact, be counterproductive. They suggest Lugar is an insider and Mourdock, who can't get those type of big name endorsements, is an outsider.

Some final random thoughts on Lugar.  I met with a former Republican political operative yesterday, someone who had run state legislative campaigns.  He told me the story of how then Governor Evan Bayh had teamed up with state legislative campaigns to assist them, something Governor Daniels also did in 2010.   He said that GOP leaders to get Lugar to help out Republican candidates in the state, including the candidate for whom he was working, and Lugar refused.    That is similar to a story I heard from a state Republican leader who years ago expressed frustration that Lugar would not come back to Indiana for Lincoln Day dinners, either as a speaker or even as a guest. 

One final story.   A Republican party activist in Hancock County had his picture taken with Lugar a few years ago.   A week or so later the person got a letter from the Lugar people saying that the picture was only for private use and that the activist was expressly prohibited from using it in a political campaign.  Even if it were somehow illegal to use the picture contrary to the wishes of Lugar (doubtful), such a proclamation could never be enforced.  So why send the letter?  All it did was have the effect of forever turning off someone who might otherwise support Lugar today.


Hoosier in the Heartland said...

Don't overlook the Dems who'll vote in the Republican primary just to vote against Murdock. That's the wild card in your calculations, eh?

rohshack147 said...

I was just wondering Paul do you think that Democrats will crossover to vote for Lugar in the primary? Also a few other questions what affect if any do you think Daniels backing of Lugar will affect his chances for being VP if he were to consider that? And what damage if any could Lugar do to the rest of the republican field if he somehow God help us is renominated?

Gary R. Welsh said...

My concern is that there is an all out carpet bombing-style attack being waged against Mourdock to leave him so crippled that he can't possibly win the November election. It appears that the party establishment in Indiana is buying into the tactics of Illinois Republicans who dismiss true conservatives as unelectable and do everything they can whenever a true conservative is nominated for office in Illinois to ensure that he or she loses the general election. The Republican establishment has already decided that it will do all that is necessary to make sure Mourdock loses this Senate seat if he defeats Lugar in the primary. The plan all along has been to get Lugar re-elected, who will resign what he plans to be his last term so that Peter Rusthoven, who was thoroughly rejected by Republican primary voters the only time he sought election to the Senate, can be appointed to the seat.

patriot paul said...

Lugar just got $ reinforcements over half million $ in campaign ads blasting Mourdock:

Paul K. Ogden said...

HITH and Rohshack,

I hear that crossover claim virtually every hotly contested Indiana election and it never happens. Even in an open primary state like Indiana, people don't like to cross over in the primary. The numbers who do is so low it rarely makes any difference at all.

Monica Boyer said...

Another thing I think needs to be considered, is how much folks have HAD IT with the establishment. The very folks that said LUGAR NEEDS TO GO think that the establishment jumping in is a slap in their face as a conservative. I think these two endorsements will seriously backfire on Lugar. Daniels has already ticked off the social conservatives more than once since he took office. and SERIOUSLY... JOHN MCCAIN? I still think that was someone on Mourdock's campaign that got Lugar that endorsement. When folks see his face on TV, they are going to have an physical reaction... and it is not lovey dovey feelings!

I also think the Dems will cross over and vote for Mourdock. They know they have a good candidate, and they believe Mourdock is the weaker of the two.

Just my thoughts :)