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Thoughts on the Lugar/Mourdock race

By Scott Tibbs, May 17, 2012

When Republican voters in Indiana retired Richard Lugar by choosing Richard Mourdock to be the party's nominee for U.S. Senate, the wailing began almost immediately. The next day, the Herald-Times whined that the Indiana Republican Party had been taken over by "extremists" who threw out the moderate Lugar. This leads to two obvious questions.

Are 60% of Indiana Republican primary voters extremists? After all, Mourdock would not be the nominee without a wide support base among Republican voters. Unseating an incumbent is always a difficult task. Mourdock not only won, he won by a huge margin that no one expected. For that matter, are 60% of all Hoosiers extremists? After all, Mourdock won 60% of the vote statewide in the 2010 general election, building on his already impressive margin from 2006. It strains credibility to argue that a majority of both primary and general election voters are "extremists." That is silly by definition.

Lugar defeated himself. His voted on gun control (the Brady law and the assault weapons ban) had stuck in the craw of Second Amendment supporters for two decades, and his votes for Bill Clinton's nominees to the Supreme Court did not help either. Lugar dug himself in farther by voting for both of Obama's nominees to SCOTUS. The residency issue hurt Lugar politically as well, as voters were not happy with his arrogant response to legitimate concerns about the fact that he has lived in Virginia for three decades.

It did not help that Lugar had been throwing mud for months, including taking one of the dirtiest race-baiting cheap shots I have ever seen by falsely accusing Mourdock of wearing a Confederate flag necktie.

I would not get too excited about the Democrats' chances to take this seat. Some have compared this race to Christine O'Donnell's win in Delaware in 2010. Mourdock not O'Donnell, who had never won a general election. Mourdock is a proven 60% statewide general election winner, and Indiana is a solid red state while Delaware is a solid blue state.

Mourdock's opponent is not exactly threatening either. Joe Donnelly scampered out of his U.S. House district rather than face a rematch with Jackie Walorski. Donnelly barely won his district in 2010 when a majority of voters chose to replace him with someone else. Fortunately for Donnelly, those votes were split between two candidates. Donnelly reached into his bag of dirty tricks and had the Indiana Democratic Party endorse his Libertarian opponent, splitting the conservative majority and allowing him to win with a plurality.

The November election will not only see Republicans hold this Senate seat, but we will hold it with a much stronger conservative who will be willing to stand against Obama much more often that our soon-to-be-retired incumbent.