May 8, 2012 at 9:30 AM
Live blogging from Indiana GOP primary election: Tea Party victory biggest Senate upset in decades
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is poised to unseat six-term incumbent Dick Lugar. Indiana has carried the 80-year-old U.S. Senator to victory with no less than 67% of the popular vote every election since 1982. UWEE’s Thor Tolo is traveling around the Hoosier state providing continuous updates throughout the day. Times are PST.
Update: In making longtime U.S. Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana the first-ever six-term senator to lose his or her seat at the polls Tuesday, Richard Mourdock has rocked this country’s political core and made it be known that the Tea Party – whatever one thinks of it – is not dead. His margin of victory is a staggering 20 points – 60% to 40%. Presidents would salivate at such numbers, including the one who once called Lugar his “favorite Republican.”
Those words from Barack Obama – more than anything – may have been the fire the Tea Party desperately needed lighted to rally necessary support to overthrow the only other genuinely moderate Senator in Washington, D.C. besides Susan Collins of Maine. On his way out of “media lane” in that same community center, Mourdock turned to a top aide and said simply, “Wow, can you believe this?”
Update: 6:53pm. The next Senator from the great state of Indiana strolls out of the community center along North High School road and steps back into the waiting SUV.
Update: 6:31pm. Mourdock conducts his final one-on-one media interview of the evening, moves to his left, and begins signing autographs at a remarkable variety of places on people’s bodies – all keeping with his traditional, old-fashioned roots, of course.
Update: 5:46pm. Mourdock is asked what he might say during his victory speech. He hesitates, reaches for coat pocket, and says he “forgot script on his desk.” He isn’t joking.
Update: 5:44pm. Senator-elect Mourdock and Marilyn arrive in the back seat of a SUV – campaign “advance” staff all around them.
Update: 5:28pm. Indianapolis Police Officer tells me Mourdock and his wife, Marilyn, have left their Indianapolis home for the rally. (No formal ETA.)
Update: 5:26pm. “This anticipation is killing me,” said volunteer Bridget Eaker.
Update: 5:23 pm. Mourdock aide, laughing: “He’s killing networks’ opportunity to carry him prime time.” A good point.
Update: 5:04 pm. Mourdock now 13 minutes late. “But fashionably so,” said an aide. “Usually more prompt as down-homer.”
Update: 4:34 pm. MSNBC calls the race for Mourdock with only 17% of votes counted.
Update: 1:33 pm. Literally empty voting booths for 46 minutes mid-afternoon today at the Indianapolis Seniors’ Center. Generally speaking, six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Dick Lugar will surely benefit from lower turnout. However, on way into this parking lot early this afternoon, two drivers said they were taking an alley as a shortcut to make sure they would beat the rush were there one.
“I don’t know any of my Republican friends who are checking the box next to Mourdock’s name. But I do know a few who’ll be ripping the lever off for him,” joked Tomas Bachtell, a resident of east central Indianapolis.
As for 72-year-old Opal Steirling, the lifelong liberal Democrat said she will take advantage of Indiana’s “open” primary right after her workout to cast a vote for Mourdock.
“At this point,” she said. “I don’t care how crazy it sounds. It’s time for Lugar to go.”
Update: 12:02 pm. Straight-talking, non-straight ticket voting Greenfield, Ind., showcases either an oversight or resignation by six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Dick Lugar – whose name appears not once among an ocean of 37 campaign signs a few yards from the main entrance to the Hancock County Courthouse.
“I’m not sure I’ve seen anything quite like it,” said Jan Brown, a six-month Richard Mourdock volunteer who herself is running for local office in this small town 17 miles east of Indianapolis. “I’ve not spoken with more than one person who says for sure they’re voting for Lugar.”
Polling places are scheduled to close at 7 pm Eastern/6pm Central today.
Update: 9:30 am. If Dick Lugar is to hold on to his seat in the United States Senate, he must subdue the wave of 11th-hour support polls show may carry Tea Party folk hero Richard Mourdock to victory. Mourdock’s once skeleton staff has orchestrated what many political insiders here consider a relentless door-knocking campaign.
Friday’s widely respected Howey/Depauw tracking poll reflected a monumental shift in momentum as Mourdock’s one-time deficit of seven percentage points had become an eye-popping 10-point lead, 48% to 38%. One Mourdock campaign insider who asked not to be identified said internal polling showed his lead had grown to 11 points as of midday Monday.
As I drove across a stretch of tiny towns from Terre Haute to Paoli I discovered this: Only one Mourdock supporter interviewed didn’t realize Indiana’s GOP primary vote is Tuesday. Conversely, all but three Lugar supporters interviewed along that journey across rural southern Indiana assumed Lugar’s name automatically will appear on this November’s ballot. Stay tuned…
The winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary will square off in November against St. Joseph County Democrat Joe Donnelly, a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Indiana’s 2nd District. If Mourdock defeats Lugar, the former two-term mayor of Indianapolis (1968-1976), the U.S. Senate will be left with only one Republican generally regarded as a moderate – Susan Collins of Maine. It also would rank as one of most stunning Senate upsets in modern history.