Here I am again, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Indiana. I hesitate to write you again because I know Christmas is a long way away and because you have been so generous to me already.
In 2012, when I was running for my Senate seat, you whispered in the ear of Richard Mourdock, a Republican who then was state treasurer, and told him to challenge U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, in the primary.
My chances of beating Lugar in a general election were somewhere between none and non-existent. Mourdock, though, was a different story altogether.
Mourdock thought politics wasn’t about enlisting people to work together to meet common challenges. No, he thought campaigning was all about saying whatever he thought, however half-baked or downright wacky that might be.
He was tailor-made for a centrist Democrat like me. (People poke fun at moderates such as me by saying that, if we were football players, we’d like to play the game entirely between the 40-yard lines. Actually, I’d prefer to play the entire game between the 49-yard lines.)
Mourdock beat Lugar in the primary – and then he became the gift that just kept on giving.
He told a national audience one of the things he liked about politics was “inflicting” his opinions on other people. Then, late in the campaign when I was beginning to worry he might win after all, Mourdock said at a debate that God was responsible for pregnancies caused by rape.
I went from being a couple of points down to winning in a walk as he chased away female voters, moderates and just about everyone else uncomfortable with the idea of accusing God of being an accomplice to rape.
I wouldn’t be a member of the U.S. Senate if it weren’t for Richard Mourdock – and you, Santa.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I know it’s almost greedy for me to ask you for anything else, Santa, but I saw a story in The Indianapolis Star in which Indiana Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel, said he wanted to run against me in 2018.
So, Santa, I have to ask – no, I have to beg: Please, please, please, make it so. Make Mike Delph my opponent in 2018.
Mike Delph, you see, makes Richard Mourdock look like a model of self-restraint.
Delph prompted the members of his own Republican Senate caucus to cast him out. When one of his pet measures – a proposed state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and civil unions – went up in flames last year, Delph responded with a marathon Twitter rampage. During his prolonged outburst, he accused his colleagues of lacking courage and, in a particularly statesman-like moment, threatened to kick the, uh, posterior of someone who disagreed with him.
Along the way, he managed to antagonize the owner of The Indianapolis Business Journal – Mickey Maurer – who also happens to be the state’s former secretary of commerce under former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels. In the November election, Maurer encouraged people to vote for Delph’s Democratic opponent, J.D. Ford.
Delph likes to point out that he beat Ford. That’s true. He managed to take a solidly Republican Senate district and make it competitive for a Democrat. And he also was able to give much of the business community a reason to vote for his opponent in the process.
Delph told the Star that he energizes his followers:
“My volunteers would walk through a nuclear attack to support me.”
(That’s one of the reasons I love this guy: Everyone’s worried he’s a bomb thrower and he gift-wraps a sound bite about atomic explosions.)
Delph’s also right about his hold on his followers. He’s great at persuading the voters who already agree with him. It’s just everyone else that he has a problem with.
Actually, that’s not quite true. He can move people. He’s fabulous at turning Republican moderates into independents and converting independents into Democrats. And he’ll do a much better job of motivating Democrats to vote for me than I could myself.
Santa, having Mike Delph on the ballot for U.S. Senate in 2018 is my Christmas wish for 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Don’t bother with ribbons and bows. Mike Delph will be the perfect gift, just as he is.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.