Lugar, Mourdock face-off with negative campaigns
This can’t be a good month for Dick Lugar.
The long-time Republican senator from Indiana is stuck in a much closer primary against State Treasurer Richard Mourdock than he would like to be. He only has a six-point lead in some polls.
And what’s more, allegations brought forth by Mourdock’s campaign that Lugar hasn’t lived in the state since 1977 led the Marion County Election Board to rule that he was ineligible to vote in his home district.
It is all part of what has become a slew of negative campaigning from both sides in TV ads, press releases, emails and YouTube videos.
“It’s about what you’d expect,” said Leslie Lenkowsky, a clinical professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “It starts to appear late in the season.”
The Mourdock campaign has ads critiquing Lugar’s residency and his bipartisan efforts with Democratic President Barack Obama.
“Now Sen. Lugar stays in high-end hotels like the JW Mariott when he comes to Indiana because he doesn’t live here anymore,” one Mourdock ad said. “No wonder Sen. Lugar’s voting record is so out of touch with Hoosier Republicans.”
The Lugar campaign has fired back with attacks on Mourdock’s lack of attendance in committee and board meetings, and it has accused him of starting the mudslinging.
“Mud? Really? Richard Mourdock and his D.C. cronies are attacking Dick Lugar again?” one Lugar ad said. “Typical, desperate, 11-time candidate Richard Mourdock is throwing mud to hide his own record.”
Lenkowsky said this is typical of late-season negative campaigning. Once one campaign — usually the underdog — fires a shot, it quickly becomes a brawl.
“Then, obviously, the other voters are wondering when are the grown-ups going to show up,” Lenkowsky said. “It rarely works. Because at this point in the campaign, it is going to take a lot to get ahead.”
The two campaigns point blame at each other for who started the bickering. Lugar campaign officials said Mourdock started his campaign as a negative one, while the Mourdock campaign officials said they were surprised by Lugar’s personal attacks.
“The Lugar campaign, for the first time since the early ’80s, is running negative ads,” said Jim Holden, Mourdock’s campaign manager. “He seems to have just gone negative because his re-election is in jeopardy.”
Since first being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1976, Lugar has rarely run negative ads. When running in the GOP primary for president in 1996, Lugar even ran a TV ad lauding that he was the only candidate to not run negative ads.
This time around, Mourdock’s early showing forced the senator’s campaign to go this route, Lugar campaign spokesman Andy Fisher said.
“It is indicative of the low road that the Mourdock campaign has gone,” Fisher said. “I don’t know we’ve ever had an opponent running a campaign so negative and attacked a year ahead of time.”
One of Mourdock’s early ads features the treasurer seated with the camera close, like he’s talking straight to voters, telling why Lugar is out of touch with Hoosiers.
“Anyone who has been in Washington, D.C., for 35 years ultimately suffers the effect from Potomac poisoning,” Mourdock said in the ad. “His willingness to push the Obama agenda has caused him to be labeled President Obama’s favorite Republican senator.”
Holden said he does not consider that negative but simply informative.
“It simply points out the different candidates in issues,” Holden said. “You can call that negative. I call it contrast.”
The main goal for both campaigns, Lenkowsky said, is now getting organized before the May 8 primary election.
The primary election, he said, is all about making sure voters are enthused enough to leave their houses and go to the polls.
“On one hand, the Lugar campaign have done this enough,” Lenkowsky said. “On the other hand, the Mourdock people have the enthusiasm of Tea Party folks.”
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