As U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar and Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock were making their 11th hour appeals prior to the June 30 Federal Election Commission report deadline, six people were arrested in Moldova trying to sell more than 1 kg of uranium-235 for $20 million. "Police have learned that they had found a potential customer, a citizen of a Muslim country in Africa," Vitalie Briceag, a Moldovan Interior official, told AFP, a global news reporting group.
These events underscored perhaps the most compelling reason to return a man who will be 80 years old when the next Hoosier is sworn into the U.S. Senate in January 2013. That Lugar had been at the Ukraine/Moldovan border in August 2007 to inspect high-tech WMD detection equipment, and that his staff had been in Moldova in January -- just as Mourdock was gearing up a challenge -- to follow up on a uranium arrest there last year, was the stuff of global intrigue wrapped around the highest stakes in civilization.
Lugar's political bulwark is his home city of Indianapolis. Within a two-mile radius just south of downtown you can find three stadiums -- including NFL and NBA venues -- two major interstates radiating out across the compass, critical Internet and cyber optic terminals, and one of the largest insulin manufacturing sites in the world. A cataclysmic nuke strike in Lugar's backyard would devastate the American security psyche.
The rap on Lugar that prompted a Tea Party-induced rebellion at what many believed would be his valedictory political run into the defining realm of statesmanship was that his globe-trotting had eclipsed his domestic political operations back home. They want Lugar at Lincoln Day dinners instead of seeking security solutions to padlocked anthrax labs in Kampala and Nairobi, or securing Soviet-era nukes and sarin that could destroy our cities.
Mourdock told The Hill early this month, "People in Indiana want to see fiscal controls, they want to see someone who's with them regularly back there, not just someone sitting in Washington, D.C., thinking about the lofty issues of foreign affairs."
Mourdock's problem today is that at a time when he needed to stand and deliver, his second quarter FEC report turned out to be a political nuke.
Heading into the June 30 FEC deadline, the conventional wisdom is that he needed to report somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million to get into the money game and attract national support. But what happened to the Mourdock campaign in June is as potentially devastating as Jill Long Thompson's extremely low profile after she won the Indiana Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2008.
Mourdock's June swoon went like this: On June 8, seven of 10 members of the Indiana Republican Central Committee who endorsed Mourdock were replaced during reorganization. His chief of staff, Richard Bramer, lost a race for 8th CD vice chair, and his field coordinator, Diane Hubbard, lost her bid to be 9th CD chair.
On June 11, Mourdock scheduled a Tea Party rally in Kokomo at the very time U.S. Rep. Mike Pence was seeking to gather the GOP universe in Columbus for his gubernatorial campaign kickoff. The Pence campaign was not amused. Mourdock's campaign manager Jim Holden ended up in an altercation with a video blogger, which then went viral on YouTube.
On June 23, WTHR-TV reported that Treasurer Mourdock had homestead exemptions on two properties. This was an embarrassment for the state treasurer, who also heads the Indiana Bond Bank.
On June 30, Lugar announced the endorsements of more than 20 Republican mayors and former mayors. Mourdock responded with an ace in his vest -- the national endorsement of RedState.com's Erick Erickson. "While Lugar has been in the Senate fighting against conservatives, Mourdock has been in Indiana fighting for conservatives," Erickson said. It appeared to be a counter to the mayors when it could have been used to stoke fund-raising.
Lugar reported $907,000 raised for the second quarter, with 87 percent coming from Hoosier donors, and had $3.5 million cash on hand. Mourdock raised $300,000. The treasurer said, "I'm not sure what the cash on hand is, to be honest with you."
With the Mourdock campaign flagging on all these fronts, he is hoping for national intervention. FreedomWorks is pondering support for Mourdock. "We're not going to climb the hill unless we have a reasonable shot at taking the hill," Adam Brandon, a FreedomWorks spokesperson, told the Wall Street Journal. Brendan Steinhauser, director of campaigns at FreedomWorks, told me last week, "We're still looking at it. It's been on the top of our list of senators we'd like to replace."
Former Hoosier Congressman Chris Chocola entered the picture when his Club for Growth began a TV ad campaign assailing Lugar for being in Congress while U.S. debt exploded.
The ironic facts are that Chocola served in Congress from 2003 through 2007, when the U.S. deficit veered into the trillions and debt rose to epic proportions. As a candidate, Chocola backed the unpaid-for Bush tax cuts, supported the unpaid-for Bush-era Iraq and Afghan wars. As a member of Congress, Chocola backed the unpaid-for Medicare prescription drug plan, the most massive entitlement expansion since LBJ's Great Society. In 2004, he voted to increase the debt limit.
All this reminds of an old saying: Those who can't do, teach. Or preach.
Brian Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana, a daily briefing on Indiana politics. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.