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Richard Mourdock: A Tea Partier Of Convenience?

Posted: 05/10/2012 11:41 am Updated: 05/10/2012 2:57 pm

Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock unseated six-term Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) in the Republican primary Tuesday after convincing voters that Lugar was too moderate and worked too closely with Democrats.

"I don't believe we need more bipartisanship in Washington," he told a Tea Party crowd last year. "We need principle."

(Above, Mourdoch expresses similar views on bipartisanship in a recent interview)

Mourdock may not have pulled off the win without big spending by Tea Party groups enamored with his far-right views, but he wasn't always so extreme.

In 1992, when he made an unsuccessful run for Congress in Indiana's 8th district against incumbent Democrat Frank McCloskey, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mourdock "has been likened to Ross Perot by the local press." He favored slashing U.S. troop levels overseas, ensuring health care for all and coupling tax hikes with spending cuts to reduce debt.

"I think he had strong libertarian strains in his thinking when he ran for Congress," said Chris Sautter, who runs Sautter Communications and was the chief political consultant for McCloskey.

He remembers Mourdock being more interested in getting a line-item veto than in being a purist on taxes, even when then-President George H.W. Bush infamously broke his "read my lips" pledge against raising taxes.

"I remember Mourdock being somewhat sympathetic to that," Sautter said. "He was very interested in getting the deficit under control."

While Mourdock's specific views may have changed over the last two decades, Sautter said he had no doubts Mourdock was part of the right wing back then, even if he wasn't part of the GOP establishment. "He had a very different kind of thinking that wasn't in the mainstream Republican mold," Sautter said.

"He was conservative then, but what was conservative 20 years ago was very different from what it is today," Sautter said. "You might say that what it means to be conservative has evolved."

Mourdock, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment about his past views, will face off against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in November. Here is a brief summary of where he stands on some of the issues, and how far he has come since the '90s.

Abortion

On his campaign website, Mourdock states that he is "unapologetically pro-life and will work to stop federal funding for abortion." He believes that Roe v. Wade represents a serious misreading of the Constitution.

While campaigning against McCloskey in 1992, he said that he approved of abortion for "crisis pregnancies," but not "abortion on demand for birth control."

Immigration

Mourdock takes a hardline approach to immigration, stating on his website that he "opposes the DREAM Act and any other legislation that would provide amnesty for illegal immigrants. He believes that we must act immediately to secure our borders and enforce the law."

In a questionnaire he completed during his 1992 congressional run, Mourdock indicated he had “no position” on “legislation which would repeal sanctions against employers who hire illegal immigrants.” He supported temporary safe haven for displaced immigrants in accordance with the Immigration Act of 1990, which increased the number of immigrants allowed into the United States each year.

National Security

According to his website, Mourdock "believes that a strong national defense is the best strategy to deter aggression," but that force should be used "only when a vital national interest is at stake."

“Mourdock strongly supports all the branches of the US military,” campaign spokesman Chris Conner told the Weekly Standard.

In 1992, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mourdock wanted to "slash U.S. troop levels overseas."

Health Care And Medicare

Mourdock considers Obama's health care law "unconstitutional and wrong for America," according to his website, and vows to work to repeal it immediately.

Mourdock questioned the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare during a recent campaign appearance. “I challenge you in Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution where those so-called enumerated powers are listed. I challenge you to find words that talk about Medicare or Medicaid or, yes, even Social Security," he said.

In the 1992 questionnaire, he indicated that he supported "comprehensive health care reform to guarantee every person in the United States access to affordable health care and to protect human life and human dignity." Mourdock once favored "providing help for people without health insurance through community health clinics," according to a 1992 story in the Evansville Press.

Taxes

Mourdock wants to eliminate the IRS and move from an income tax system to a consumption tax. "The federal tax code has become too complicated with too many loopholes and is not a fair and efficient system of raising revenue," he writes on his website.

In 1990, the Bloomington Herald-Times reported that "Mourdock said he could back a tax hike if Congress coupled it with a line-item veto for presidents starting after the next election in 1992 to help keep a lid on spending.”

Earmarks and Spending

In a recent television spot, Mourdock attacked Lugar for his February vote against a permanent ban on earmark spending. “Dick Lugar won’t vote to end wasteful spending and earmarks. I will,” he said.

But Mourdock approved spending $75,000 of taxpayer money on a “new bumper-boat attraction" at a county park in 1995, according to the Evansville Courier & Press. The paper also reported in 1992 that Mourdock proposed a free year of college, funded by the government.

Now Mourdock wants to eliminate the Department of Education.

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