The Agenda

Brief Note on GOP Primary Challengers Liljenquist and Mourdock

Ramesh Ponnuru politely demolishes a false distinction between “Reform Conservatism” and “Rejectionist Conservatism.”

One aspect of the distinction I find puzzling: as Brian Bolduc suggests in his profile of Dan Liljenquist, the Utah state senator has a sterling record as a reformer, having overhauled Utah’s public pension system in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Liljenquist is an even-tempered former management consultant and business executive who has developed a strong reputation in the state legislature, including among Democratic members.  

Mourdock, meanwhile, has positioned himself as a staunch, down-the-line conservative, yet the latest “revelation” from his rival for the Republican Senate nomination is that, well, he favored a variety of centrist proposals in a congressional race twenty years ago, as Brian Francisco reports:

The campaign for Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., on Wednesday accused primary election foe Mourdock of stating positions in 1992 that go against conservative beliefs.

They included Mourdock’s support for the Fairness Doctrine, which had required broadcasters to present opposing views on issues; his wish to cut U.S. troop levels overseas; and his proposal for the federal government to pay for a year of college for students who maintained a B average in high school.

Though Mourdock is far from perfect, the positions he’s taken in the Senate race are well within the Republican mainstream, and the fact that he is willing to run against ethanol subsidies, unlike Lugar, is admirable. 

Interestingly, Liljenquist and Mourdock both seem to favor a more restrained foreign policy, which could be a sign of the times. One thing is clear: these guys are not wild-eyed ideologues. They’re running against long-serving incumbents because those incumbents have for whatever reason decided not to retire gracefully, which is a shame.


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