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IN THE NEWS: Congressman Rokita “R-Jerk,” taking on Gov. Daniels and the entire GOP, Swarens writes in new column

INDIANAPOLIS – Congressman Rokita has expanded the war between the Indiana GOP Senate candidates to a war among the entire Indiana Republican Party, according to conservative columnist Tim Swarens in his latest Indy Star piece. After his latest ad attacked Governor Daniels’ 2005 budget deal and stadium funding proposal, Congressman Rokita has now attacked two of the last three Republican governors, and clearly seems to believe attacking anyone and being a “jerk” to everyone is the way to GOP primary voters’ hearts.  It’s a strategy that may backfire, according to Swarens and GOP insiders: “What works in the primary,” he writes, “may well flop in the general election, when more moderate voters can decide many races.”

From the Indy StarTodd Rokita wants to be your jerk in the Senate

Todd Rokita, in his bid for a U.S. Senate seat, has worked carefully to craft an unusual, perhaps effective image of himself: I’m a jerk.

So while Republican insiders worry that the brutal GOP primary will improve Democrat Joe Donnelly’s chances for re-election in November, Rokita continues to double and triple down.

So far, it’s Rokita who’s done most of the knife sticking. And most of it in the back.

What other Indiana Republican today would criticize Mitch Daniels… Who else would release a campaign commercial that essentially says it was a mistake to build Lucas Oil Stadium and expand the Indiana Convention Center? Who besides Rokita would criticize the sitting Republican governor and state legislative leaders for increasing the gas tax to improve Indiana’s neglected streets and highways?

Trashing your party’s leaders goes against conventional politics, which tends to be a team sport. But it plays into the image — I’m a fighter who doesn’t care who he offends — that Rokita is selling.

Will it work? It certainly could in next month’s primary. Six years ago, Republican voters ousted the quintessential nice guy senator, Richard Lugar, in favor of State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who trumpeted his own version of Rokita’s “Defeat the Elite” slogan.

And that, from a conservative perspective, is the biggest danger in Rokita’s “I’m the jerk fighting for you” script. What works in the primary may well flop in the general election, when more moderate voters can decide many races. Mourdock belatedly learned that fact while self-destructing in the fall campaign, eventually losing a seat to Joe Donnelly that Republicans had held for 36 years.

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