Lugar’s GOP Challenger Aims to Imitate Rubio Fundraising

Posted April 15, 2011 at 2:23pm

Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) will report he raised over $157,000 since announcing his bid for Senate in late February, leaving him with just $122,000 in the bank to challenge six-term Sen. Dick Lugar (R) next year.

While that sum is only a fraction of the $3 million that Lugar had in his account as of March 30, Mourdock detailed for Roll Call his fundraising strategy for his primary campaign, including his plan to raise money from a national donor base starting next year.

“We’re not done yet. The ratio will certainly close between where he is and where I am today,” Mourdock said in a phone interview. “By the time we’re all done, I suspect … we’ll probably have a couple million dollars” going into the primary.

Mourdock said his campaign just needs to “keep our heads above water” until after the filing deadline in February, when he believes the contest will officially be a one-on-one match between him and the Senator. Then, Mourdock said, the money would start coming in like “lightning in a bottle,” comparing his bid to that of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), whose fundraising went into overdrive once it was clear that he would face Gov. Charlie Crist in the 2010 GOP primary for Senate.

At least one other Republican, state Sen. Mike Delph, is openly considering challenging Lugar, but he has said he will not make a final decision until early summer. Mourdock doubted Delph would enter the race, calling him a “shrewd politician” who knows that “getting your name in the news is a good thing.”

Mourdock said he has retained an in-state fundraiser, Ashlee Walls, who ran the fundraising operation for freshman Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.) last cycle.

He has also hired a consulting firm, the Prosper Group, to raise money for him online — a key portion of his self-described fundraising strategy after the filing deadline. The Prosper Group has a track record of raising millions for Senate candidates with national tea party support, including Nevada candidate Sharron Angle and Delaware candidate Christine O’Donnell, both of whom won GOP primaries but then lost their high-profile 2010 races.

A confident Mourdock also cautioned that money would not lead to victory in the May 2012 primary, listing examples of his support on the ground all over the state — including defeating Lugar, 80 to 14, in the Harrison County Lincoln Day Dinner straw poll Thursday evening.

The Hoosier State Republican also suggested that Lugar’s campaign has not even fathomed how little support he has among the GOP grass roots in Indiana.

“What do you think when you hear that 75 percent of the county chairmen are supporting your opponent — when you hear that you lost a Lincoln Day dinner 80 to 14?” Mourdock said. “Does he think that I’m out there paying people off? I say that in jest, of course.”

Mourdock mused on whether Lugar’s staff knows the gravity of the situation: “I wonder if his staff gets it, if they take him out every morning and let him know.”