Sen. Richard Lugar (R) delivered a bruising attack on the man who defeated him in the Republican primary as he conceded Tuesday night, giving the Democrats the ammunition they’re looking for to cast newly-minted Republican nominee Richard Mourdock as too extreme for the voters of Indiana.
Lugar actually gave two responses to the primary. The first, delivered from a podium in Indianapolis, barely mentioned State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed challenger who defeated the veteran Lugar thanks largely to millions in negative ads funded by conservative groups. In the largely positive speech, Lugar said he was “optimistic about the future of Indiana and the United States” and said the deep partisan divides exemplified by conservatives like Mourdock “are not insurmountable.”
But Lugar staffers gave out a second statement after Lugar was done speaking that took a much different tone, taking a direct swipe at Mourdock.
“If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator,” Lugar said in the statement, according to the Evansville Courier and Press. “But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington.”
But wait, there’s more:
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. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.
The statement specifically namechecked FreedomWorks and the Club For Growth, the conservative groups that paid for negative ads tearing down Lugar in the closing weeks of the primary.
Read the full text of both statements here.
Democrats, who are running Rep. Joe Donnelly against Mourdock, are eager to paint the Republican as far to the extreme right. The idea is that independents and centrist Republicans who voted Lugar into the Senate for all those decades will blanch when faced with Mourdock and will cast their ballots for Donnelly instead. Lugar’s second, angrier, post-primary statement gave them some of the ammo they need to separate Lugar’s base from Mourdock.
Within minutes of the second Lugar statement, the DSCC sent it to reporters, saying, “If you read one thing about Indiana Senate primary… Read Dick Lugar’s words about Tea Partier Richard Mourdock.”
If Lugar keeps this kind of thing up, he might emerge as the Democrats’ number one surrogate in Indiana this fall.
This post has been updated.