Commentary: 12 lessons from the 2012 elections

By Abdul Hakim-Shabazz

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org.

If there’s one thing we can take away from the 2012 election in Indiana, it is that there really are 12 things we can take away from the 2012 election in Indiana.

  1. Primaries and general elections are two totally different creatures. Although Richard Mourdock won his primary handily over outgoing Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., by a 60-40 margin, his campaign never made the transition to appeal to a broader general electorate. Thus, it was easy for Joe Donnelly to occupy the middle.
  1. Make peace with your party. If you win a primary by a 90-10, 80-20 or 70-30 vote, you can afford to blow off the people who didn’t vote for you. Not so much when it’s 60-40.
  2. Stay on message. A lot of credit goes to Gov.-elect Mike Pence’s campaign staff for staying on message. Democrat John Gregg wanted to make it about Pence’s positions on social issues, but Pence stayed on the economy and job creation, which by the way, are social issues.
  3. Leave the crazies where you found them. Although this is another column for another forum, the tea party did nothing to help Mourdock but spew hatred and nonsense.
  4. Don’t underestimate social media. When Mourdock made his comments regarding rape, abortion and God, the social media universe exploded. Tony Bennett, who had a well-funded and well-organized campaign, fell victim to an underground social media campaign by teachers who didn’t like the reforms he was bringing to Indiana education.
  5. Get organized and stay organized. Pence and Joe Donnelly ran well-executed campaigns that stayed on message, even when they were thrown a curve ball or two.
  6. Never underestimate moderate voters. As both parties tend to nominate candidates further to the right and left of the general electorate, remember, most Hoosiers, while conservative, are practical and don’t take too kind to crazy. And for those of you who don’t like “RINOs” – Republicans in name only – try winning without them.
  7. Supermajorities can be dangerous. It looks like Republicans will have supermajorities in both the Indiana House and Senate. They can make a lot of people’s lives miserable and do it without overreaching. For example, they might do it by passing legislation that prohibits school districts from collecting union dues. Hint! Hint!
  8. The governor’s office still matters. Although Democrats are joyful, and rightly so, of having captured Dick Lugar’s Senate seat, all things being equal, a governor has a lot more appointments and more control over where a lot of money goes than a U.S. Senator.
  9. Margins matter. If you’re a Republican and running statewide, you need to win the donut counties by about 65 percent to 75 percent to beat the Democratic turnout in Marion and Lake counties. If you can’t hit that mark, you have a problem. As we write this, Mourdock failed to get more than 60% of the vote in any donut county.
  10. Politics is about addition. America is changing. It is a lot more black and brown and less white. And if you don’t get people who look like America on the ticket, you are going to have problems.
  11. Rape. If you’re a man and you get asked this question, say it’s bad and shut up. And if you say something stupid about it, don’t get mad if your friends throw you under the bus.

Abdul is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at


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