Mourdock vs. Lugar: Ind. GOP Senate Race Both Nasty, Nice

Tuesday, 01 May 2012 11:02 AM

By Dan Weil

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Indiana’s hotly contested GOP Senate primary includes both yin and yang, with the candidates getting along swimmingly in joint appearances but engaging in a bitter war through ads and the media.

The candidates are six-term incumbent Richard Lugar and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. The election is Tuesday.

“When they share a stage, the two Hoosier Republican Senate candidates are cordial — a sharp contrast from the vitriol voters are seeing in their mailboxes and on the air,” Indiana-based Republican political consultant Kevin Kellems told Politico. “We call that ‘Indiana Nice.’ Other states tolerate more Beltway-style smash-mouth. Here it can come with a price.”

The last major objective poll showed Lugar ahead by 7 percentage points, but that was in late March. The contest now appears to be a cliffhanger. That would seem to indicate that the veneer of politeness isn’t doing Lugar much good. Most voters no longer get to meet the candidates in person; they receive their information from online media, TV ads, and robocalls.

At a recent GOP township club meeting outside Indianapolis, Mourdock called Lugar “a great public servant.” But the challenger’s latest ad campaign labels Lugar as “Obama’s favorite Republican.”

Lugar, 80, rarely mentions Mourdock when campaigning, focusing on his own achievements instead. But the incumbent’s campaign staff is putting out about five anti-Mourdock press releases a day. Lugar ads have labeled Mourdock a tax scofflaw who has “sold out to D.C. outsiders.”

Chuck Ford, president of the Hamilton County Tea Party that supports Lugar, expects the bitter side of the campaign to keep voters at home. “What I’m afraid is happening as a result of the maliciousness of this campaign is that ... the more malicious the campaign is, the lower the voter turnout,” he told Politico.


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