Jubilant Moudock claims GOP Senate nomination; Lugar warns party
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 6:20 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
INDIANAPOLIS - While U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar struck a cursory supportive tone to Indiana Treasurer Richard Moudock as he conceded the Republican primary race early Tuesday night, a second Lugar statement was much sharper in tone and could spark a rift within the Indiana GOP. It was also a warning to the Republican Party that has shifted dramatically to the right.
"Hoosier Republican primary voters have chosen their candidate for the U.S. Senate," Lugar told several hundred supporters in Broad Ripple. "I congratulate my opponent on his victory in a hard fought race. I want to see a Republican in the White House, and I want to see my friend Mitch McConnell have a Republican majority in the Senate. I hope my opponent prevails in November to contribute to a Republican majority."
Mourdock was in landslide mode over Lugar, leading as much as 61-39% just prior to Lugar's concession. It was even more of a tidal wave than the Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll forecast last Friday, with Mourdock taking a 48-38% lead. In the final days of the campaign, the 14% of undecided voters in Howey/DePauw broke overwhelmingly - 12% for Mourdock - against Lugar. Mourdock will face Democrat U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly. Mourdock and Donnelly were tied at 35% in the first Howey/DePauw Poll (March 26-28) which featured a general election survey and produced the first independent media polling in the race. That poll also showed - by a 51-44% margin - Hoosiers favored the $80 billion auto industry bailout by the Bush administration. Mourdock tried to thwart the Chrysler/Fiat merger, while Donnelly was an ardent proponent of rescuing an industry that employs an estimated 150,000 Hoosiers.
Mourdock told jubilant supporters that Hoosier Republicans want the Senate to "take a more conservative track." Mourdock led his supporters in a lengthy round of applause of Lugar, calling him a "a great public servant, a great Hoosier, a great American." Mourdock added, "He will never be my enemy. He was over the last 15 months, my opponent."
And Mourdock called his victory "about the direction of the Republican Party and the country. This hasn't been about me. This has been about you, and you got it done."
“The message to the establishment is, ‘You’re our servants. We’re the masters. Do what you’re supposed to do, adhere to the Constitution or we’ll fire you,’” Greg Fettig, founder of Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, told Politico.
“Richard Mourdock’s victory truly sends a message to the liberals in the Republican Party,“ said Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth and the former Indiana congressman. “Voters are rejecting the policies that led to record debt and diminished economic freedom.” Chocola called Mourdock’s win a “historic victory,” saying, “Richard Mourdock defeated a legend in Indiana politics because of his hard work, focus on the issues, and his conservative message."
The Lugar campaign released a second statement that was critical of Mourdock and the PACs that threw more than $3 million into the race against him. "If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good senator," Lugar said. "But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. This is not conducive to problem-solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve."
Lugar continued: "Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues."
Lugar said they are attempting to "purify" the Republican Party, and predicted dire consequences if it proceeds down that path. It is a common thought among many of his supporters, who will have trouble reconciling Mourdock's attacks against "bipartisanship" and his goal of ridding Washington of "liberals" in contrast to Lugar's modus operandi over the past four decades. "They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise," Lugar said of the PACs. "If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years. And I believe that if this attitude expands in the Republican Party, we will be relegated to minority status. Parties don't succeed for long if they stop appealing to voters who may disagree with them on some issues."
Indiana Republican Chairman Eric Holcomb, who faces the challenging of uniting a deeply divided party, congratulated Mourdock. "He ran a people powered race and we look forward to an equally vigorous general election campaign," Holcomb said. "As our next United States Senator, Richard will be a forceful defender of our Party and principles as he stands up to the disastrous economic record of Barack Obama and Joe Donnelly, who made promises they didn't keep and continue to promote policies that are bankrupting our country, saddling future generations with unsustainable debt."
Mourdock told WTHR-TV that he believes Gov. Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence will help him unite the party. "Gov. Daniels and Mike Pence will make that happen," he said. Daniels will join Mourdock, along with Lt. Governor Becky Skillman and other statewide elected officials for a Republican Unity Press Conference at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday at Indiana Republican Party HQ.
But Donnelly was prepared to challenge Mourdock. "I thank Senator Lugar for his many years of service to our great state and to our nation," said Donnelly, who opted for the Senate race after his district was redrawn and polling provided to Indiana Democrats showed Lugar had just a 28% reelect among Republicans. "He and I share a history of working across the aisle. I agree with the Senator that we accomplish more when we work together. Senator Lugar and I stood together to rescue the American auto industry, and our state has benefitted greatly from his efforts in so many areas. I stand ready to challenge Richard Mourdock in the general election because of what's at stake for Hoosier families. Mourdock once said he 'didn't take a pledge that [he] would support every job in Indiana.' I wholeheartedly disagree. I am running to be a U.S. Senator for working families, which means I will fight for every single Hoosier job."
Donnelly gutted out an intense challenge from Republican Jackie Walorski in 2010, becoming one of the few Blue Dogs to survive in an increasingly polarized Congress. In the March 26-28 Howey/DePauw Poll, Congress had a 10% approval rating.
President Obama praised Lugar's service. "As a friend and former colleague, I want to express my deep appreciation for Dick Lugar's distinguished service in the United States Senate," Obama said. "While Dick and I didn't always agree on everything, I found during my time in the Senate that he was often willing to reach across the aisle and get things done. My administration's efforts to secure the world's most dangerous weapons has been based on the work that Senator Lugar began, as well as the bipartisan cooperation we forged during my first overseas trip as Senator to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Senator Lugar comes from a tradition of strong, bipartisan leadership on national security that helped us prevail in the Cold War and sustain American leadership ever since. He has served his constituents and his country well, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors."
U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who was neutral in the race, praised Mourdock. "I want to congratulate Richard Mourdock on his win this evening in the United States Senate GOP Primary contest," said Stutzman, a freshman elected in 2010. "I also wish to convey my heartfelt appreciation for Dick Lugar's public service over the years. I look forward to continuing our work in the coming months to shape common sense farm policy for the next 5 years. Both men fought hard and I look forward to working with Richard Mourdock to keep the seat Republican in November."