Fresh off his primary victory over incumbent Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, I had a chance to chat with a very sleep-deprived Richard Mourdock Wednesday morning.
When I asked why he won, Mourdock was quick to credit his campaign’s “ground game” for the stunning victory. “I talk to so many people who think this is the age of TV media,” he said, “but here it’s all about the ground game on primary day.” Mourdock said his grassroots campaign probably logged 18,000 man hours working the polls yesterday.
But the grassroots effort began long ago.
“We had five tremendous field directors,” he said, “each one of them was responsible for 15 or 20 counties.” As an example of the effectiveness, he cited the moderate Republican area of Hamilton County. “We’ve had people walking door-to-door in those neighborhoods since October,” he boasted. (Mourdock won the county.)
“There’s no method of political influence more important than one neighbor talking to another,” he averred.
Lugar might have been able to match him on the air, but Mourdock knew that building a robust grassroots campaign would give him an edge that couldn’t be matched. “It was certainly overlooked by the Lugar team,” he said of the ground game. “If they tried to build such an effort, they didn’t succeed.”
Mourdock stressed that he was appreciative of all the help he received from national conservatives, but added: “I almost think our grassroots team could have gotten this done on their own — and believe me, they’re not finished.”
“This became almost a movement,” he said, noting that some voters even went so far as to make homemade signs. “That army formed around us. And they were just unbelievable.”
Mourdock said he never doubted he would win. “Before I decided to do this,” he said, “I talked to 90 of the 92 county chairmen in Indiana. I began to realize there was this real undercurrent of people wanting something different.” The fact that Lugar didn’t official reside in the state was an obvious problem.
“Hoosiers like to have a chicken dinner with their politicians,” Mourdock said.