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Why Mourdock Won

12:01 PM, May 9, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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At the Washington Post, Chris Cilizza and Aaron Blake explain why Dick Lugar lost yesterday's Republican primary in Indiana:

Instant analysis of Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar’s crushing defeat at the hands of state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in Tuesday’s Republican primary cast it as yet another example of a tea party-aligned GOPer ousting a prominent face of the party establishment.

And that instant analysis would be wrong. Lugar lost — and lost badly — for a number of reasons, the vast majority of which had nothing to do with the relative tea party-ness of his opponent.

At its heart, Lugar’s defeat was attributable to the fact that he broke the political golden rule: Never lose touch with the people who elected you.

Lugar, the Post continues, lives in Northern Virginia and stayed in hotels when he "went home" to Indiana. Exit polling showed many Republican Hoosiers thought it was time the 80-year-old Lugar retired. And Lugar ran a "flat-footed" campaign, focusing too much on his Senate experience in an era where incumbency is a hindrance. All of that explains how Lugar lost his bid for a seventh term.

But missing from this analysis is the answer to another question: Why did Richard Mourdock win, and why did he win so big (by 20 percentage points and over 120,000 votes)? The fact is that despite the Lugar campaign's efforts to paint the soft-spoken state treasurer as an extremist (not to mention the Republican Young Guns' paid advertising attacking his conservative positions), Mourdock proved himself to be an able campaigner and a palatable alternative to Indiana's six-term senior senator.

Mourdock recently told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that he believes it was an April 11 debate against Lugar, broadcast on TV throughout the state, that turned the tide for him in the election. "My mission going in was to look confident, capable, and conservative,” Mourdock said. “And that’s what I did.” Republicans in Indiana apparently agreed.

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