You can sense the momentum shifting under Richard Lugar’s feet in the challenge by Richard Mourdock. How desperate has the Lugar campaign become? So desperate that one of Lugar’s top campaign aides has concocted the claim that Mourdock’s necktie resembles a Confederate flag and made an issue of Mourdock allegedly dying his hair.
There are several reasons for Lugar’s desperation:
First, late March polling shows a dead heat among Republicans with Lugar pulling out a single digit lead with help of non-Republicans in the open Indiana primary. With much lower name recognition, Mourdock has huge upside potential as the electorate focuses.
Second, Mourdock raised more money in the 1st Q of 2012, although Lugar still has a lot more money in the bank. Combined with outside groups such as the NRA, Club for Growth and Freedomworks, Mourdock will be able to counter Lugar’s anticipated ad-krieg.
Third, a SuperPAC devoted to protecting Republican establishment incumbents just decided to spend $600,000 attacking Mourdock — and that’s just in Indianapolis. Lugar must have internal polling showing him in trouble for his SuperPAC to dump that much money just in one city.
Fourth, Mourdock has a better ground game, with 3000 volunteers signed up versus 800 for Lugar. With the presidential primary all but meaningless, the candidate with the more motivated base will do better, and that candidate is Mourdock:
Craig Dunn, the Republican chairman in Howard County, said he was stunned last year when he asked the 15 members of his local steering committee how many would vote for Mr. Lugar. “Not a hand went up,” said Mr. Dunn, who has supported Mr. Mourdock, as did, his campaign said, nearly three-quarters of the party’s county chairmen back when he announced plans to run more than a year ago. (Mr. Lugar’s supporters say those numbers have since shifted and shrunk.) “This never would have happened to Dick Lugar in his prime,” Mr. Dunn said.
Fifth, yesterday, National Review endorsed Mourdock, making it hard for Lugar to claim Mourdock is a fringe candidate.
Sixth, Democrat Joe Donelly is a weak candidate, with terrible fundraising numbers. This diminishes Lugar’s scare tactic that the seat will be lost if Lugar is not the nominee.
So how desperate is Lugar’s campaign? A Lugar spokesman a few days ago claimed that Mourdock’s necktie resembled a Confederate flag:
A top aide to Sen. Dick Lugar is charging that a necktie GOP rival Richard Mourdock frequently sports on the campaign trail carries Confederate symbolism.
In an email to supporters pushing back against an anti-Lugar television advertisement by the National Rifle Association, Lugar political director David Willkie points out that the elk shown in the spot weren’t found in the Hoosier State and goes on to take issue with Mourdock’s neckwear.
“That’s not an Indiana elk… (if so, it would be one of the first wild ones since the Civil War when guys sported Confederate neckties like Richard Mourdock’s),” wrote Willkie….
During an interview here, Mourdock, the state treasurer running in the May primary, denied the tie in question (pictured above) includes any Confederate messaging or advocacy and dismissed the allegation as increasing signs of desperation from the Lugar camp.
“I do not own a Confederate necktie. I own two ties that are red with a blue stripe with white stars. I bought them at the Republican state convention,” he said. “I don’t even know how to respond. I am stunned. If you’re running for class president you do something like that. I don’t have anything that has a Confederate symbol on it, anything like that. That’s lunacy.”
Yes, it is lunacy. But Lugar’s spokesman didn’t stop there, he mocked Mourdock’s hair color:
In his email responding to a follow-up about the tie, Willkie also lobbed another ostensibly petty charge.
“PS, We also hear that Mourdock dyes his hair,” Willkie wrote in an email. “But you be the judge. . . lol.”
It’s time for Lugar to go. You can support Mourdock here.
Update: Not suprisingly, the SuperPAC backing Lugar is running misleading ads:
The attacks themselves aren’t particularly strong. Mourdock has problems “showing up for work,” the ad claims: “Mourdock skipped 66 percent of his official board meetings.” Yes, Mourdock usually doesn’t attend the state Board of Finance meetings personally, but neither does ex-officio member Governor Mitch Daniels. “Since 2007, the State Treasurer’s Office has been represented by Treasurer Mourdock or a senior staff member at over 99% of the board meetings for which he or his designee serve as a member,” Mourdock’s campaign has noted in response.
We have seen this picture before. In order to win, Lugar needs to lie about Mourdock; in order to win, Mourdock needs to tell the truth about Lugar.