Indianapolis — On the eve of Election Day, state treasurer Richard Mourdock is a picture of composure. Late in the afternoon of May 7, he arrives at a get-out-the-vote rally at Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church in West Lafayette, Ind., to cheers from the 50 or so supporters gathered there. Sporting red T-shirts with Mourdock’s name blazoned across their chests, they hoot and holler as Mourdock quietly shakes hands and cracks jokes with members of the crowd. All of them are confident he’ll win tomorrow.
“I sense we’re going to win,” Mourdock tells reporters, in his usual understated way, before heading into the church. “I’m not going to predict a margin. Frankly, as long as the margin is large enough that at the end of the evening, we all know the answer tomorrow, I’ll be happy with that.”
What’s more, if he loses, he promises to “support Senator Lugar, because it’s important that we have a majority in the United States Senate who are Republicans.” The remark is both a peace offering and a sneak attack: Mourdock’s campaign has highlighted in recent days the fact that Lugar has refused to say whether he’ll support Mourdock if he loses the primary. Lugar’s reticence has irritated Republican voters, who are already impatient with his long tenure in Washington, D.C.
“Mr. Lugar’s been in politics a long time,” Karen Carr, an attendee, tells me. “It may be time for a change.”
“Lugar needs to retire,” says Ron Cline, another attendee. “He’s out of touch with our people.”
Frightened by the increasing probability of defeat, Lugar’s campaign has kicked into high gear, making more than 1.5 million phone calls to voters since the beginning of the campaign. Recently, it has pointed out the fact that Mourdock polls even with the Democratic candidate, Representative Joe Donnelly.
Mourdock is unperturbed. When he ran for state treasurer in 2010, Mourdock notes, “I received more votes in Donnelly’s district than he did.”
And while he credits tea partiers with supporting his campaign, he rejects the attempt to label him a tea-party candidate, as Democrats will be sure to do in the general election. Mourdock points out that three-fourths of Republican county chairmen and half of the GOP state committee are supporting his campaign. “I have a broad base of Republican grassroots support.”
Mourdock’s campaign didn’t always hold such a commanding position. He struggled to raise money at first, although in total he’s raked in $2.2 million. (He has only $225,000 in cash on hand.) Lugar, meanwhile, raised $4.4 million.
In February, however, the Club for Growth decided to back Mourdock and started airing ads against Lugar. In response, the Lugar camp has alleged that Mourdock is a puppet of special interests.
“To the charge that there’s a special-interest group that’s been supporting us from outside the state, that’s true,” Mourdock says to reporters. “And the special-interest group is called conservatives. . . . They recognized this was a time to put a more conservative voice in the United States Senate, and we’re proud to have their support.”
He adds, “When you look around this state and see all these yard signs, those aren’t put up by the Club for Growth.” Rather, they’re put up by Indiana Republicans, 3,000 of whom had committed to work the polls at 1,300 precincts for all twelve hours of voting tomorrow, Mourdock adds.
“At first I liked Mourdock because he wasn’t Richard Lugar,” jokes Jon Held, an organizer of the event. “But then I realized we would actually replace him with [a conservative].”
While introducing Mourdock to the attendees, Held says he hasn’t been this excited since the day he met former vice president and Indiana senator Dan Quayle. And when Mourdock mounts the stage, his supporters show equal excitement.
When he begins his speech, Mourdock recounts all the Rotary Club meetings and chicken dinners he attended to get where he is today. “Chickens quake at the sound of my name,” he jokes, to loud laughs from the crowd. Mourdock isn’t the most dazzling campaigner, but he is most diligent, and it has paid off.
“The winds of change are blowing,” he says, before addressing himself to a troop of Boy Scouts in the audience. “I really hope that all of you guys remember that while Mr. Lugar and I have been campaigning very vigorously, I have never once, nor will I, think of Dick Lugar as my enemy. He is not. He is simply an opponent.”
Mourdock also reassures the audience that he will win the general election. He compares campaigning to running a marathon, a feat he’s accomplished nine times — the last time when he was 60 years old. “When you run a marathon, no matter what you feel like in the last two miles, you maintain the same pace,” he says. “If you speed up, you cramp up. If you slow down, you fall down.”
“And we’re going to keep that same pace right until 6 p.m. Central Time tomorrow,” he concludes. And considering he leads Lugar by ten points in the latest Howey/DePauw poll, that pace may be just right.
— Brian Bolduc is an editorial associate for National Review.