Lugar slams GOP 'pledges,' inept campaign operation

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

Long-serving moderate Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, ousted in a primary this year by a weak Tea Party candidate, is going out swinging, assailing the GOP's election operation for being "completely obliterated" by the Democrats, and accusing some conservatives of abandoning the Constitution to pledge allegiance to a "some pledge," presumably like Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge.

In an address to the middle-of-the-road Ripon Society, Lugar also assailed today's 24/7 campaigns, outside interest groups and Congress' "bunker mentality" for the gridlock in Washington.

In making his attack, he hit pledges some conservative groups, like Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform anti-tax promise, demand of candidates. "We've also seen special interest groups step forward and declare which of these potential candidates are potentially unacceptable because of a vote or a position that he or she may have taken in the past. This permanent, partisan gamesmanship has gotten out of hand. Politics has become a constant campaign, where one's oath to the Constitution has too often taken a backseat to one's fealty to some pledge," said Lugar, who did not mention Norquist.

"It has paralyzed the legislative process, and contributed to much of the dysfunction we are seeing today. It is also the reason we find ourselves on the edge of the fiscal cliff. We know the steps that must be taken to keep our country from going over. The question is whether we are too wedded to our pledges of political purity to keep from stepping back from the abyss," added Lugar, long considered the voice of reason by moderate Republicans and Democrats.

In his primary, Lugar lost to Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock who should have easily won. But Mourdock blew it when he said that if a woman became pregnant after being raped, it was "something that God intended to happen."

Lugar didn't mention that race in the comments Ripon released Tuesday, but he slammed the GOP election machine. While paraphrasing comments Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus made at a GOP meeting, he highlighted the party's missteps.

"When it came to turnout, we were completely obliterated by the Democratic machinery. We just have not achieved the sophistication that people now employ to track every voter from the beginning: make sure the voter is registered, make sure the voter has an absentee ballot, give him a ride to the polls, check him off when he votes, down to the last one," said Lugar.

"We were also outperformed using social media. Some people have figured it out in this regard, and their ability to communicate at all levels, all the time, was the difference. In the key electoral college states, it clearly was a big difference in terms of sheer organization. I don't want to dwell on organization, but if we're worried about outside groups, or if we're worried about other extraneous events, having a strong organization makes a big difference," he added.