On a fund-raising trip to Evansville, Ind. this weekend, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney appeared alongside Republican senatorial candidate Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer and tea party favorite, in Mourdock’s hometown.
A week earlier in Indianapolis, I spoke to Mourdock about his race against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, a former small business owner from outside South Bend. Polling released this week shows the contest is a dead heat.
Q: How much help do you expect Mitt Romney to give you in November?
A: People are so fearful of where this economy is going, they don’t want to support [Democrats.] He will be a big help, but I take nothing for granted. I’d have said [Obama] wouldn’t win in ’08, either, but he did.
Q: Do you worry about how you’re going to win over more moderate Lugar Republicans? [Mourdock bested longtime Senate Republican Dick Lugar in the primary.]
A: I worry about everything every day, so of course I do. But the primary showed Indiana voters look past negative attacks. Lugar spent a lot on negative attacks and it didn’t work.
Q: How does addressing a tea party convention [in Dallas the day before] help you with those voters?
A: People will have to make their own judgment on the fact I was asked to speak to a national conservative meeting, but I was proud to stand alongside [South Carolina Republican Senator] Jim DeMint [and other tea party heroes.]
Q: Have you been in touch with Lugar or his people? [This was four days before Lugar introduced Mourdock at a Republican senatorial lunch in Washington.]
A: Not directly, no. But in the end, he is a Republican.
Q: You didn’t endorse Romney or anyone else in the primary, right?
A: No, I didn’t. They would never endorse me, so why should I?
Q: Driving up here today [to Indianapolis from Evansville] I passed an awful lot of burned-up corn. Do you ever look at that and think maybe there is something to climate change after all?
A: No; Alaska’s having the coldest summer on record. Weather is different every year.
Q: You talked a lot today about cutting our way to growth, but cuts in government do put people out of jobs and grow the unemployment rate.
A: There are no easy answers, but the question is longer-term, do government employees grow the economy? No, government consumes more than it grows.
Q: Isn’t the auto industry stronger today than it would have been if you had been able to block the bailout in court?
A: No; they [Democrats] want to claim, ‘We saved jobs and Mourdock was trying to kill jobs.’ I just said let’s have a normal bankruptcy [for Chrysler.] They would have come back even leaner and meaner. I think it would have been better in the longer term. [On the suit he filed against the Chrysler loans,] I want people to be working, I truly do, but what they did [in making those loans, which have since been repaid] was beyond the law. One of the editorial boards I met with lectured me about [the lawsuit] and I said, ‘Look, guys, I get it; I believe in equal justice under the law and you don’t.’
Q: In your remarks just now, you talked about how the main reason businesses aren’t investing is uncertainty. But by talking about the uncertainty every day, aren’t you reinforcing it and even contributing to it?
A: No. That’s like saying that if you tell someone with 102-degree fever he looks sick, you’re the cause of it.
Q: Okay, on the Affordable Care Act, let’s talk about ‘repeal and replace.’ Replace with what?
A: With selling insurance across state lines, expanding health care savings accounts, tort reform…
Q: Texas did tort reform and they’re first in the country now — have a higher percentage of uninsured people than anywhere else.
A: I don’t know what they did in Texas, but Indiana is considered to be one of the best places to practice medicine. Tort reform could be peanuts or string beans; they’re both nuts, but very different.
Q: You also talked today about the importance of deregulation; isn’t the deregulation of the banking industry what led to the financial meltdown?
A: No, banking wasn’t lacking regulation; it was lacking enforcement.
Q: The polling shows this could turn out to be a close race. What do you need to do to close the deal?
A: I need to shake tens of thousands of hands and raise millions of dollars, convince people I’m a reasonable, hard-working, energetic person and my motivation for this is nothing less than getting this country back on the right course.
Melinda Henneberger is a Post political writer and anchors the paper’s ‘She the People’ blog. Follow her on Twitter at @MelindaDC.