Welcome to our live chat on tonight’s debate between Republican U.S. Senate candidates Dick Lugar and Richard Mourdock. I’m Times assistant managing editor Robert Blaszkiewicz, and I’ll be your host during the debate, providing running commentary and analysis. I welcome your comments and questions.
We will be monitoring the Twitter feeds from each candidate’s campaign, so if they have any comments during the debate, you’ll see them in to this chat.
In the region, you can view the debate on C-SPAN or on Lakeshore TV channel 56. You can also listen to the debate on WLPR 89.1 FM, WEFM 95.9 FM and WDSO 88.3 FM
To set the stage, Lugar is a six-term incumbent who is facing the stiffest challenge of his career in State Treasurer Mourdock, whose candidate has been pushed by the Tea Party faction of the Republican party, as well as conservative groups such as the Club for Growth.
The most recent polling shows Lugar ahead, but vulnerable. He’s got a 7-point lead on Mourdock, 42-35, with 23 percent still undecided. The poll found that 17 percent had not heard of Mourdock and 40 percent had no opinion of him.
The challenge for Mourdock tonight is to turn those undecideds into supporters.
Democrats are watching this debate closely as well. Their attacks have been focused on Lugar with the thought that a matchup with Mourdock gives them a much better chance to pick up the seat. U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Polling shows Lugar with a big lead over Donnelly, but a dead heat between Mourdock and Donnelly.
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A bit of drama between the campaigns that may or may not come up tonight: Politico had this story on the Lugar campaign accusing Mourdock of wearing a "confederate tie" and using hair dye.
A note on my debate analysis: I am generally annoyed by pundits who look to label winners and losers in debates. Outside of someone who reveals him or herself to be woefully unprepared (and I don’t think that will happen tonight, these are two knowledgeable candidates), I don’t see debates in terms of winners and losers. Rather, I believe it’s important to focus on where the candidates diverge in their stances on key issues and where they have common ground. It’s up to voters to decide which candidate better matches their views.
So that’s how I am aiming to focus this chat during the debate.
Key issues I’ll be watching for: The economy and deficit should be a dominant issue. The Mourdock campaign has hit Lugar for voting to raise the debt ceiling. Government bailouts also will likely come into play with Mourdock winning acclaim, along with criticism for his lawsuit fighting the Chrysler bailout. Expect Lugar to tout his foreign affairs experience.
I also expect a heaping serving of Obama bashing from both candidates, which seems to be the one thing all Republicans agree on.
The debate is now beginning. Tune in on TV at C-Span or Lakeshore TV channel 56
Candidates will have 2 minutes to answer each question, along with rebuttal time. 30 second introductions starting now
Mourdock cites competition, marketplace in talking about his reasons for running.
Lugar is first to invoke Obamacare in his introduction
First question: Why is price of gas so high, when price of oil is lower
Mourdock says the bigger reason is government regulation, this is a theme he repeatedly hits in his speeches.
Lugar defends corn ethanol, saying it has lowered the price.
First big difference between candidates on the impact of ethanol on the price of gas
Question: What should congress do to boost economy, increase jobs?
Lugar hits upon education, emphasizing Ivy Tech, Mourdock points again to regulation, government changing rules on businesses. Like I said, this is a theme Mourdock hits repeatedly.
Lugar: We're trying to roll back regulation. Mourdock: I'm not seeing it, more frustrated these days with Republicans.