Skip to Content | Skip to Search | Skip to Navigation
Indiana University

Lugar-Mourdock contest: IU experts available to discuss Indiana's GOP Senate primary

April 25, 2012
Bloomington, Indiana --

Experts discuss the following topics related to the Indiana Republican Senate primary race:

Incumbent Lugar still favored
What are the points of debate?
Moderation a virtue for 'courageous minds'
The influence of money


As the Republican primary race between Sen. Richard Lugar and challenger Richard Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer, begins to heat up, the eyes of conservative and moderate groups, national Super PACs and political reporters have turned to Indiana. Faculty experts at Indiana University offer their views of the race. Election Day for Indiana primaries is May 8.

Image of Les LenkowskyIncumbent Lugar still favored.

Leslie Lenkowsky, a professor of nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to lead the Corporation on National and Community Service, believes the results on Election Day will be clear.

"Ultimately, Sen. Lugar will win," he says, offering several reasons:
  • Incumbent's advantage. "The advantages that come with being the incumbent in a race are enormous," Lenkowsky says. Simple benefits like higher name recognition and an established base of supporters who will assist with important early fundraising efforts make a huge difference in close races.
  • Insurgent's disadvantage. Supported by many Tea Party groups, Mourdock represents many of the ideals that led the Republican takeover of the U.S. House in 2010. "Unfortunately, insurgent movements are generally not as effective the second time," says Lenkowsky, who predicts the Tea Party will not have the same influence in 2012 as in the 2010 midterm elections.
  • Open primaries. Indiana holds open primaries, in which any voter may choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic contest. "Sen. Lugar will probably want to encourage independent voters to vote in the Republican primary," Lenkowsky says, adding that Lugar's more moderate positions will appeal to independents and increase his likelihood of winning.
  • Lugar's record. "Last year's successful intra-party challenges in Delaware, Nevada and Utah probably encouraged groups to oppose Lugar," says Lenkowsky, who adds that voters have sought to hold long-term members accountable for Congress' poor performance. However, he adds, Lugar has a relatively conservative voting record that, mixed with his experience, will appeal to conservative voters.
Lenkowsky adds, however, that Mourdock will appeal to conservatives who want to see change in Washington, D.C. "He has positioned himself as someone who is willing to challenge policies he believes are wrong for the country," he says. "Since many conservatives feel a lot of policies are moving the United States in the wrong direction, they admire Mourdock's willingness to take a stand."

To speak with Lenkowsky, call 812-855-4702 or email llenkows@indiana.edu. For a video of Lenkowsky talking about American elections and the GOP presidential contest in its earlier stages, click here.

Image of Andrew DownsWhat are the points of debate?

Andrew Downs, assistant professor of political science and director of the Mike Downs Center on Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, offers his predictions of what will be the focus of the campaign disagreements:

Lugar's residency. The issue of whether Lugar can claim residency in Indiana has been widely discussed already by the campaigns and outside groups. Lugar points to state law that says individuals are still viable candidates if they are not retaining residency because they are "on the business of the State of Indiana or the United States." Downs says residency "may have run its course as a focal issue but is likely to continue to play a role in the broader attack that Lugar is out of touch with Hoosiers."
  • Thirty-six years in office. Although people have observed that Lugar would be 86 by the time he finished serving his seventh term, Downs argues that the focus on years has less to do with Lugar's age and more to do with his time spent in office. Ads against Lugar have sought to frame his time in office, and therefore his age, as a negative, but Downs argues that age does not deter young voters. "While some might think that Lugar's age will turn off younger voters, we should keep in mind that Ron Paul, who is over 75, has a good following among younger voters," he says.
  • Out of practice. Lugar's status as the senior senator from Indiana may allow him to be framed as out of touch and part of a Washington elite, but Downs suggests that what could hurt Lugar more is that he has not had to actively campaign in 12 years. "A candidate can get out of practice after six years, but the fact that Lugar has out-raised Mourdock and has more cash on hand demonstrates he is not out of practice at raising money," Downs says.
  • Party loyalty. The fact that neither candidate has chosen to address the economy, the No. 1 issue facing voters, indicates that both are attempting to keep positive within the party and appeal to primary-election voters, who are traditionally more partisan. "This is part of the reason we have heard both campaigns talk about their conservative credentials and challenge the credentials of the other candidate. In the fall, we likely will hear the remaining candidates talk more specifically about issues," Downs says.
To speak with Downs, call 260-481-6691 or email downsa@ipfw.edu, or contact Susan Alderman at 260-481-6165 or aldermas@ipfw.edu for assistance.

Image of Aurelian CraiutuModeration a virtue for 'courageous minds.'

The Lugar-Mourdock contest raises questions about what it means to be a moderate. According to Aurelian Craiutu, associate professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington, the conventional image is that moderation is an ambiguous virtue, too vague to be properly defined or analyzed. At the same time, moderation is a touchstone of contemporary political regimes, since no parties can properly function without compromise, bargaining and moderation, and ordinary citizens everywhere are by and large moderate in their views and actions.
  • "It is difficult to be passionate about moderation, a complex and difficult virtue, with a discrete and sometimes obsolete charm, which is unlikely to appeal to everyone," says Craiutu, whose book "A Virtue for Courageous Minds: Moderation in French Political Thought, 1748-1830" was published this month by Princeton University Press. "Furthermore, it is equally hard to act like a moderate, for moderates are often marginalized, derided, ignored or simply forgotten, while moderation is often stigmatized as the virtue of cowards and compromise as the prudence of traitors."
  • Craiutu says disagreement over the meaning of moderation is inevitable, reflecting the ambiguity of our moral and political vocabulary. While moderation is often interpreted as a virtue -- a state of mind or character -- it also refers to a philosophy of governing.
  • Moderates have worn many masks over time, he points out. Examples include: the juste milieu or happy medium between revolution and reaction in French political thought; Ordoliberalism in post-war Germany and social-democracy in Sweden; and the New Deal in the United States. There have also been political movements that aspired to moderation: the Prague Spring of 1968 in the former Czechoslovakia, Solidarity in Poland and the "Third Way" of former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"Moderates do not lack political vision," Craiutu says, "and often times it is more difficult to be and act like a moderate than a radical or extremist."

To speak with Craiutu, email him at acraiutu@indiana.edu or contact Steve Hinnefeld at IU Communications, 812-856-3488 or slhinnef@iu.edu.

Image of Marjorie HersheyThe influence of money.

Campaign finance reports at the end of the first quarter of 2012 showed Lugar with almost six times as much money as Mourdock. But Super PACs complicate the picture, says Marjorie Hershey, a professor of political science in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington.

Why are Super PACs getting involved? Re-election rates for Senate members hover around 80 percent. "Groups such as the Club for Growth are responding to the high re-election rate of incumbents in general elections," Hershey says. Since most states lean primarily to one of the two major parties, Super PACs seek to influence results by influencing who wins the primary elections. "These PACs are trying to change the nature of Congress through influencing primaries," Hershey says.
  • Controlling the message. With more than $4 million in cash-on-hand to spend, the Lugar campaign has had the luxury of being able to run its own television ads and keep its message "pro-Lugar." "With all the money he has, he can afford to pay for television ads and control the message," Hershey says.
  • Super PAC spending. Although two Super PACs are backing Lugar, at least five support Mourdock. "The largest is Club for Growth," Hershey says about an organization that is reportedly connected to more than 70 percent of donations Mourdock received in the last fundraising quarter.
  • Attack ads. "It's hard for most viewers to figure out whether a particular attack ad comes from the candidate or a separate Super PAC," Hershey says. She adds that although these ads are financed independently of the candidate campaigns, the ties between Super PACs and campaigns make influence inevitable, which explains the similarities between the ads produced by these two groups.
Whether creating public fatigue of campaigns or confusing knowledge of candidates, negative ads are effective at changing poll numbers in a close race, Hershey says. "Unfortunately, ads contribute to making the race harsh, negative and disappointing for all but the most intense partisans," she says.

To speak with Hershey, call 812-856-6308 or email hershey@indiana.edu. To see a video of Hershey speaking about her research on elections and campaigns, click here.