Politics

Indiana Dems Saw Lugar's Defeat Coming; Used Mailer to Hobble Him

The Indiana Democratic Party lavished praise on Senator Richard Lugar who was defeated Tuesday night in the Republican primary by State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

"Like all Hoosiers, we owe Senator Lugar a debt of gratitude for his long and storied career," said Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker.

But the fact is Parker and the Democratic Party saw Lugar's demise coming and were rooting for it...and trying to steer Lugar-friendly, Indianapolis Democratsaway from the moderate Republican Senator.

About 50,000 Indy-area Democrats were sent mailers specifically asking them to support Democratic primaries candidates including Congressman Joe Donnelly running in the un-contested party senate nomination race.

Why the mailers? Lugar was mayor of Indianapolis in the early 70's and has always enjoyed cross-party support. And the fact was the Indiana Democratic Party knew early on Lugar was more popular with Democrats than Republicans.

The state Democratic Party shared with Fox News internal polling data from January showing only 28% of Hoosier Republicans thought Lugar deserved to be re-elected. 39 percent state Democrats polled thought Lugar should get another term. (Lugar did best among Independent voters. Forty-one percent favored another six-years for Lugar.)

Although not carrying a majority in any of the three segments, Lugar's appeal across the board was a potential problem for Democrats and their senate candidate nominee Donnelly. If Lugar survived the Republican primary, he could carry his usual portion of the state's Democratic and Independent vote plus the bulk of the Republicans and win a seventh term.

A run against a more conservative Republican nominee might change the race into a more traditional left-right contest, with the real battle over voters in the middle...the Independents.

So, Lugar-friendly, Indianapolis Democrats got the gentle nudge in the form of those party mailers.

Parker also says the Lugar campaign "didn't even get the good stuff" on Mourdock.

In most federal races, parties or candidates send a "tracker" (a volunteer usually, armed with a video camera) to videotape every public event the opposing candidate has. This way a campaign can know an opponent's every comment, every movement and every unflattering moment.

"The Lugar campaign didn't send trackers," says Parker. The Indiana Democratic Party did assign trackers to shadow Mourdock who reported back there was no Lugar tracker in sight.

Now as the general election campaign begins, Donnelly and the state Democratic party has footage of Mourdock from the campaign trail, the opponent they wanted and, they believe, improved chances of snagging Dick Lugar's soon-to-be-vacated US Senate seat.

 

Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.