WASHINGTON -- As it releases a second ad defending Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar from a Tea Party-backed primary challenge, the American Action Network has taken a page out of the book written by Restore Our Future, the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC that has spent more than $40 million in the Republican presidential primary bashing Romney opponents Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
While the advertisement itself contains themes similar to those that peppered Restore Our Future attacks against Gingrich and Santorum -- such as connections to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, wasted taxpayer money -- the real connection comes in the argument made by the conservative nonprofit in support of its opposition to Richard Mourdock, Lugar's primary opponent.
"Why are Harry Reid and his liberal allies rooting for a Mourdock primary victory this May?" American Action Network spokesman Dan Conston asked in a statement. "It would only embolden them this November. Hoosier voters have an important question to ask themselves: Do they want to help Harry Reid and take the risk of a bet on Richard Mourdock?”
This is precisely the argument that many Restore Our Future ads lead off with before launching into criticisms of Gingrich or Santorum. One anti-Gingrich ad began with a picture of President Barack Obama as a voice-over asked, "Why is this man smiling? Because his plan is working. Brutally attack Mitt Romney and hope Newt Gingrich is his opponent."
The pitch invokes partisanship over purity, reminding conservatives that defeating Democrats should be the first order of business. The American Action Network ad makes this clear at the end by calling Mourdock, "A risk we can't afford."
As HuffPost previously reported, this argument is being used by mainstream conservative groups to beat back the Tea Party insurgency, as Republicans seek to win both the White House and the Senate while holding on to the House. The party establishment does not want to risk a repeat of 2010 when far-right candidates like former Nevada State Assembly Rep. Sharron Angle and Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell cost the party key seats and, arguably, full control of Congress.