Chris Sautter: What the primary proves
Monday, May 14, 2012 5:09 AM
BLOOMINGTON - Where does one start explaining how a 6-term U.S. Senator lost so convincingly to a guy who had failed in three previous congressional races? What did Indiana’s primary election prove? And, who were the winners and losers?
What the Primary Proves
• Primary elections are about base. For years, Lugar neglected the Republican base while Mourdock courted it. The result was a primary election blowout by Mourdock.
• With Mourdock and Pence at the top of the ticket, the Indiana Republican Party is now farther to the right than any time in the past 50 years.
• Donnelly is the moderate candidate in the Senate race while Mourdock is currently showing no interest in “pivoting to the center.”
• As Lugar’s election night comments suggest, the gap between the conservative and more moderate wings of Indiana’s GOP will not be easy to bridge.
• The victories by Republican Susan Brooks and Democrat Shelli Yoder (pictured) show that women candidates know how to win contested congressional primaries in Indiana.
• Democratic turnout in the primary was abysmal and could spell trouble for Democrats unless Obama, Donnelly, Gregg ramp up enthusiasm in the state.
• Richard Mourdock: In November, 1992 Mourdock had lost 3 straight congressional races. Now, he is poised to go to the U.S. Senate.
• The Indiana Tea Party: The Tea Party failed to coalesce behind a candidate in 2010, and establishment candidate Dan Coats won the Republican primary against a field, at least a couple of whom would have been every bit as strong in 2012 as Richard Mourdock. Lugar couldn’t survive against just one Tea Party-endorsed opponent.
• Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.): DeMint orchestrated the outside special interest campaign against Lugar as a part of his effort to take over the Republican Senate Caucus.
• Joe Donnelly: Donnelly’s chances of winning the Senate seat improved greatly with Lugar’s loss.
• Indiana Democrats: The Obama campaign is now likely to spend money in Indiana at the very least in order to give Donnelly cover.
• Susan Brooks: Brooks was the only candidate in the 5th district with a consistently positive message.
• Shelli Yoder: With an underfunded but enthusiastic grassroots campaign, Yoder came from nowhere to easily win the 9th District Democratic nomination against four opponents—two of whom outraised her.
• Sue Errington: After losing her state Senate seat in 2010, Errington came back to defeat party favorite Doug Walker for the nomination in an open State Representative seat.
• Brian Howey: Howey’s polls became the public barometer for the Senate race. Howey provided by far the best and most consistent Senate race coverage.
• Dick Lugar: A long, distinguished political career ended sadly in large part because Lugar was slow to recognize the degree to which he was vulnerable, because he failed to change with the times, and because he failed to address an untenable residency problem until it was too late.
• David McIntosh: Like Lugar, residency issues ended McIntosh’s political career.
• Carpetbaggers: Dan Coats survived residency issues in 2010, but he may be the last Hoosier carpetbagger.
• Republican Bi-partisanship: Susan Collins may be the only Republican in the U.S. Senate in 2013 willing to reach across party lines to get the nation’s business done.
• Lunch pail Republicans: The group backed Lugar and opposed the Indiana Right to work law. Their endorsed candidates lost.
Sautter is a Democratic consultant based in Washington and a frequent HPI columnist.