NOW with Alex Wagner | May 09, 2012
>>> on the heels of a resounding defeat in the hoosier state , senator dick lugar is excori affecting the "rigid opposition" of some people in the republican party . meanwhile, president obama was given a run for his money in north carolina by rask farran christian candidate keith judd, or as the state 's correctional facilities know him, inmate number 5503151. it's wednesday, may 9th and this is "now."
>>> joining me today, patricia murphy of citizen jane politics and a contributor to "the daily beast " and d.c. news political analyst , former governor ed rendell . that means crossword lover. maggie haberman and mr. sunday morning himself, hugo lindgren of "the new york times magazine." tea party challenger richard mourdock ousted senator dick lugar in last night's primary after 36 years in office. he grated mourdock but offered an ominous prediction for congress, writing "what mourdock has promised in this campaign is reflexible votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. if that attitude prevails in american politics , our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years, and i believe that if this attitude expands in the republican party , we will be relegated to minority status." mourdock responded to this, this morning on "the daily rundown."
>> what i've said is i certainly think that bipartisanship ought to consist of democrats coming to the republican point of view.
>> well, there's that. joining us now from washington is former rnc chair and msnbc political analyst , the notorious michael steele . chairman steele, is this win, is mourdock's win a good thing for the republican party ?
>> well, yeah. i mean, i think it's -- you know, every win is, you know, a good day for the republican party if you're getting candidates out there who can carry that state or carry a congressional district for you, if that's what the people in that state or that congressional district believe. i think this race now puts the senate a little bit more in play. i think that a lot of the voters who supported lugar over the last few years who didn't get to vote in this primary are going to be looking very closely at mourdock going into the general, which makes this seat now a little bit more of a question mark for the republicans to keep it. that is ultimately a consideration politically that the state party and political actors on the ground have to take into consideration when they get behind certain candidates to oust an incumbent who has traction with the opposition, if you will. in other words, democrats voted for lugar in general elections . they now have to recalculate, particularly when mourdock comes out with a statement like he did this morning, when you're telling the other side, look, the only way this is going to work is if you agree with me. that's going to cause the voters to have pause, particularly in a climate where they're sick and tired of being sick and tired with the bs that comes out of candidates' mouths and out of elected officials ' mouths when it comes to solving problems.
>> chairman, it's maggie haberman. how much -- there are specific factors in this case involving senator lugar .
>> he dnst didn't live in the state .
>> and was seen as disconnected from the electorate. at what point is it incumbent upon the senators and people in office to run a race, campaign, do things that you actually have to do to stay in office, as opposed to just not have a tea party challenger?
>> maggie , you're absolutely right. if you're going to parse this thing down and look at it, that was the nub of the loss here. you know, the tea party challengers in these races have had the advantage of going in and filling a void that's been left by the incumbent who's come to washington , forgotten their home state . they've, you know, not lived there for quite some time, as in the case of lugar , and become disconnected, as we saw with bob bennett in utah, for example. and so, the reality is that you have to stay engaged, you have to, you know, do politics 2.0 , and really stay in this new environment, connected in this new environment, where you have not just tea party activism, but you know, occupy type of activism and union activism that are shaping and formenting the body of politic at the grassroot level. if you're disconnected of that, you go the way of lugar , bennett and others, who are ousted because the voters ultimately decide you're not connected to me, so i'm not connected to you. therefore, let's look someplace else.
>> okay, but what do we make, folks on the panel here, about -- i mean, we're talking, there are state interests, obviously, as you pointed out, maggie , not feeling like your representative is representing you, but then there's also the national concern and i think that's what lugar is giving voice to in terms of where this country is going and where the party's going. and you know, you think about what mourdock has said in terms of bipartisanship. that's not bipartisanship. that's my way or the highway.
>> sure, but i think we're missing the point here. the real thing we should be discussing now is the loss to the country. this is going to create enormous problems on two counts. number one, we lost someone who after the election, assuming whether it's obama or romney, the next president has to get everyone together and say we've got about 4 1/2 months that we've got to do simpson / bowles , a good energy bill , an infrastructure bill, education and we've got to do it bipartisan. everyone's going to have to give up a little bit. number one, we lost dick lugar , who was one of the guys who could do that from the other side if president obama is re-elected. and two, this is going to have a chilling effect on other republicans who are up two years from now.
>> a chilling effect , sort of, but also, i mean, i think it's not politics 2.0 , it's literally politics 101.
>> and i think that's the failure here. it's like, this is where, you know, it's one thing to be a moderate. it's another thing to be a moderate who's not really playing the game.
>> see, that, i disagree with that. mike castle went home every night to delaware . he was mr. delaware . people loved mike castle . he lost because he was too moderate.
>> well, i think the most important thing that lugar said last night that was very true is that republicans are losing the ability and democrats are losing the ability to even explore alternatives. and when you see what's going on in the house and the senate, there is my way and the wrong way, and lugar was one of the few people who would explore the other way and talk to other people, talk to democrats about where can we be in the middle. but he did things like vote for multiple debt ceiling increases, voted for both of obama's supreme court nominees, which in the old days was just being polite politics, being polite to the president. i think now the next step is, who's going to win this race in november? somebody like joe donnelly , quite moderate, he did not vote for nancy pelosi the last time around. i think he's the best choice that democrats have to put out on the field. but if you look at what happened in 2010 , dan coats beat brad ellsworth , who was also moderate, by 15 points. so indiana i think is a big question mark for democrats now.
>> it is.
>> michael steele , the conventional wisdom here, if you look at the polls done in late march, joe donnelly , who of course is the democratic challenger here, got 35% of the vote to mourdock's 35% of the vote. but when you paired him up against dick lugar , donnelly was getting 29%, lugar 50% of the vote. this is a statement that theoretically shouldn't even be in play for the democrats and now would seem to be.
>> and now it is, and that's the reality. it's delaware all over again. you've got to -- you know, i get the passion to get someone out, you know, who's not necessarily, you know, giving you the good vibes that you want, but the reality of it is, there are political consequences and impacts and i think both patricia and the governor are dead on here. you're looking at what lugar said really is a manifesto for the party in terms of staying relevant in this changing political environment.
>> and michael, i think worse is what mourdock said.
>> if i'm the democrats , i'm taking that around right now today --
>> oh, my gosh!
>> they will be.
>> well, they'll need somebody else besides dick lugar to say it as a manifesto --
>> no, we democrats say it, coming from mourdock's mouth.
>> i'm talking about the republicans, though.
>> can it possibly that be both things are true? can it that be dick lugar is a loss to the country, that this is going to be harmful in d.c. and for getting things done, and at the same time, there are basic lessons that you do actually have to campaign for your state ?
>> don't try to be so reasonable, maggie . you have such a moderate opinion.
>> he has it on his driver's license. you can't get elected no matter what you say --
>> he wasn't warned, and essentially for the response to be, you should elect me anyway because i am a centrist and can get things done. that's a problem.
>> we have to go to break, but i have to say one thing. if we are talking about the reality of campaigning and needing to run a campaign to get re-elected, it's important to note that the club for growth spent $2 million on this race to help mourdock and super pacs and the influence of outside groups. lugar should not have been in danger. he kicked the door open for the tea party to walk through.
>> yes, he did.
>> and was warned by washington republicans for months to take it seriously.
>> look at the club for growth . these are people who say they want the u.s. economy to recover. well, we're not going to have a recovered economy, folks, unless we do simpson / bowles . and simpson / bowles means both sides have to compromise. and we just, thanks to the club for growth , kicked out one of the few guys who could broker that compromise.
>> there's still a republican --
>> good job.
>> there's still a republican in washington who's talking bipartisan language and his name is michael steele . mr. steele, thank you, as always, for joining us.