The Campaign Spot

Democratic Highlight from Last Night: The Earth Did Not Crash Into the Sun

The midweek Morning Jolt was a lot of fun to write:

May 8, 2012: The Night the Primaries Got a Lot of Fun

So, some great surprises on primary nights, beyond Indiana…

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker received more votes running against no one in the Republican primary than the two major Democratic candidates got combined.

In North Carolina, “No Preference” garnered 21 percent in the Democratic Party presidential primary against Barack Obama.

In West Virginia, “A felon incarcerated in Texas took one in three votes away from President Obama in West Virginia’s Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday. Keith Judd, who is serving time in a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas, for extortion, took 37 percent of the vote, with 50 percent of precincts reporting. Obama captured the remaining 63 percent.”

I’m sure the night could have gone worse for Democrats, but… I’m not sure how.

Indiana’s Primary Had a Winner and a Lugar, But No Real Losers

Richard Mourdock: classy winner. Our Brian Bolduc reports:

In an interview with NRO, Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock, fresh off his primary victory against Senator Dick Lugar, says he feels “really badly” for his opponent tonight. “I know what it’s like to lose,” Mourdock says. “It’s a tremendous feeling of disappointment. I feel really badly for him; I really do.”

At the time Mourdock spoke with NRO, he hadn’t heard from the senator personally, though he was quick to add that he had been preoccupied with preparing for his victory speech. Asked if he would like to campaign with Lugar in the fall, Mourdock replies, “I would certainly welcome that if that’s something he would like to do.”

In his concession speech earlier tonight, Lugar, who had long refused to say whether he would support Mourdock after the primary, told supporters that “I want to see my friend Mitch McConnell have a Republican majority in the Senate. I hope my opponent prevails in November to contribute to that Republican majority.”

Sixty-one percent of the vote for Mourdock with 99 percent of precincts reporting. That’s a solid win.

By the way, Eric Cantor needs to emphasize to all of his current staffers that if someday they plan on forming a group to back “young guns,” they probably ought to back… you know, actual young guns, instead of old guys who, ironically, are not as strong on guns as they ought to be.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday distanced himself from the candidacy of Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), saying he had “not gotten involved” in the closely watched race even though a group linked to Cantor is backing the embattled Indiana senator.

The Young Guns Network, an advocacy group run by former top Cantor aides, is actively supporting Lugar in his primary fight with Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock and has spent more than $100,000 sending mailers urging a vote for Lugar. The primary is Tuesday, and Lugar is expected to lose.

“I have not gotten involved in that race, and this is an outside group that I have no control over,” Cantor told reporters in the Capitol when asked what message Lugar’s defeat could send.

It’s not that Richard Lugar is a bad man; it’s just that you should be able to accomplish what you came to do in Washington within thirty-six years or so. You can’t be a reformer of Washington in your seventh term.

But, as tribute to Lugar, one of the most surprising columns I’ve ever read, from 2002, from Michael Crowley at The New Republic:

Back in 1996 I was a smart-alecky TNR intern eager to wisecrack my way into print. Richard Lugar was a Republican senator running one of the most hopeless presidential campaigns in modern history. Lugar was an awful candidate. His grimacing, mechanical approach to primary-state retail politics made Steve Forbes look like Warren Beatty. Stating the obvious during the campaign, he told one reporter, “I’ve never purported to be an entertainer or performer or a bon vivant.” His candidacy was instead based on that perennially losing theme of technocratic mastery. Lugar’s edge was that, as a hardworking 20-year senator, he simply knew the issues better than anyone else did. Naturally, his candidacy went nowhere.

And so perhaps the most rational, levelheaded candidate of all time, acted like a maniacal dictator: He went nuclear. In December 1995 Lugar ran a four- part ad campaign telling the story, docudrama-style, of terrorists who steal three Russian nuclear warheads and threaten to detonate them in the United States. In one spot, a little girl plaintively asks at bedtime, “Mommy, won’t the bomb wake everybody up?” Others depicted panicky aides begging a befuddled president for guidance. The implication was that most presidential candidates would be ill-equipped to deal with such a calamity. But not Lugar.

Long before The Sum of All Fears gave Americans mass nightmares, Lugar had become fixated on the possibility that former Soviet nukes might be stolen and exploded on American soil; he had spent countless hours working on that very question in the Senate. And so the ads concluded with Lugar, looking solemn–and, back then, vaguely ridiculous–issuing his grave warning: “Nobody wants to talk about nuclear terrorism. But hiding from it won’t make it go away.” In those blissfully ignorant days Lugar’s doomsday ads felt like a desperate, even exploitative, ploy. And so I smugly typed out a short, unsigned item for TNR’s “Notebook,” declaring that Lugar had “managed to undermine the one element that sets him apart from his competitors: seriousness.” That showed him! Today Lugar’s nightmare scenario feels rather less cartoonish…

Dick Lugar, bless him, saw this coming a decade ago. And he’s probably worked harder than anyone else in Congress to protect us. A program he formed with then-Georgia Senator Sam Nunn in 1991 has spent billions keeping nuclear weapons from reaching our shores. Nunn-Lugar pays for everything from alarm systems at a plutonium dump in Belarus to gainful employment for bribe- susceptible former Soviet nuclear scientists. It’s that rarest of federal programs: forward-looking, efficient–and utterly lacking a political constituency.

This is not the retirement circumstances you wanted, Senator Lugar, but we can thank you for your service nonetheless.


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