The Tea Party cost Republicans Senate seats in 2010, and they're poised to provide Democrats another gift in 2012: Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Gasping for relevancy, the Tea Party upset a united GOP establishment in Indiana. Now, this same GOP establishment will want you to think that Mourdock, who defeated longtime Senator Richard Lugar on Tuesday, is a strong and reasonable candidate in a red state. They couldn't be more wrong. The truth is, Mourdock is a Tea Party extremist who voters will reject just like they did Ken Buck, Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell.
Richard Mourdock has put Tea Party politics and his own career ahead of Hoosier jobs time and time again. You read that right: in this still-recovering economy, Mourdock rejects protecting and creating jobs in favor of politics. While fighting to stop the rescue of Chrysler, he told reporters: "I didn't take a pledge that I would support every job in Indiana," and later called the challenge his "Rosa Parks moment" because he knew there would be consequences for taking on the task. Indiana is the most manufacturing-dependent state in the nation. Hoosiers will likely respond to this assertion that their elected officials shouldn't defend their jobs as well as Nevadans did to Sharron Angle's insistence that those worried about job creation should call someone else and that it wasn't her job to protect Nevada's economy.
Poll after poll has shown that Americans are seeking more bipartisanship. Meanwhile, Richard Mourdock has pandered to his Tea Party audience by calling bipartisanship "part of the problem." In his written statement last night Senator Lugar said this about Mourdock: "He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate."
That may play in a Republican primary, but with Tea Party approval in the 30s in Indiana, Mourdock can expect a long campaign defending his belief that Social Security, the Department of Education and Medicare (among other things) are unconstitutional; his call for a national sales tax that would raise taxes on 80% of Hoosiers; or the two million taxpayer dollars he spent taking his challenge to the Chrysler rescue to the Supreme Court.
In the past year and a half, we've seen the impact of Tea Party in Congress: an angry, divisive body politic where solutions aren't the end game. Extremist legislation like the Ryan budget, which would end the Medicare guarantee and slash medical care for veterans, now passes the House with ease. Tea Party popularity is declining because Americans across the country recognize that extreme candidates aren't interested in results. So, ultimately these same candidates will risk vulnerability in a general election contest.
Meanwhile, Democrats have a candidate In Indiana ready for the fight. Joe Donnelly withstood the Republican wave of 2010 in a Republican congressional district while facing well over $2 million spent against him by third parties. Joe Donnelly knows what it takes to win under the most difficult of circumstances. Richard Mourdock, meanwhile, struggled to build a steady campaign operation and relied mostly on outside dollars and support -- much as Ken Buck did in Colorado in 2010.
While Richard Mourdock struggles to find ways to back off of his extreme Tea Party record, Joe Donnelly already has a strong record of standing with Hoosier working families. Indiana's Middle class wants someone who will fight for them -- and not a knee jerk conservative ideology. That's why Joe Donnelly will be the next U.S. Senator from Indiana.