One need not support formal term limits to recognize the existence of informal ones, and the tightening polls in the Indiana Senate Republican primary suggest voters there may be starting to think Senator Richard Lugar has been in Washington long enough.
The conventional wisdom has been that the six-term incumbent Lugar is a safer general-election bet than his opponent, state treasurer Richard Mourdock. But the primary has heretofore shown Lugar to be out of touch with Hoosiers, an institutionalized Capitol Hiller who for a spell was ruled ineligible to vote in his own primary after a local board determined he hadn’t owned a home in Indiana in three decades. Though a subsequent ruling allowed Lugar to claim a family farm as a residence, the die is cast. Lugar has become a carpetbagger in his own state.
By contrast, the low-key Mourdock’s mantra has been “capable, competent, and conservative,” a line he used last week after a fine performance in his sole debate with Lugar, and one that could describe our impression of the man after he met with National Review editors recently. Mourdock is popular in Indiana, having won reelection as state treasurer with 63 percent of the vote, and has impressed the grassroots, securing endorsements from a number of Tea Party groups and delivering a strong speech at CPAC. Like so many who have seen the light, Mourdock became a conservative in the age of Reagan; he is a successful oil geologist whose growing interest in thinkers such as Milton Friedman led him to run for Congress and eventually win county and statewide office. As treasurer, Mourdock has shown himself to be both fiscally prudent and possessed of a certain fighting spirit, most prominently when he (unsuccessfully) sued to recover $6 million the state’s pension funds had lost when the Obama administration’s auto bailouts arbitrarily rewrote a century of bankruptcy law . . .