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Mourdock 'mainstream,' Stutzman says

U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock has campaigned at the side of a Republican congressman from Indiana three times in the last two weeks.

Mourdock, the second-term state treasurer, had a news conference with Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, on Thursday at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters in Fort Wayne. Earlier in the week, Mourdock appeared in Indianapolis with Rep. Todd Rokita, R-4th. Mourdock joined Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., on June 1 in Churubusco.

At every stop, the Republicans criticized President Obama's health-care law. But by having these joint appearances, is the GOP trying to present Mourdock as a more mainstream candidate? His rivals -- Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., in the primary election and Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, ahead in the general election -- have portrayed Mourdock as a right-wing extremist.

“The reason I’m glad to stand shoulder to shoulder with the current congressmen isn’t to reflect that I can work with Republicans, it’s to make a point that the United States Senate controlled by Republicans will be able to work with the majority in the House," Mourdock said Thursday.

Democrats currently enjoy a 53-47 edge in the Senate. Thirty-three of the chamber's 100 seats are up for election this year. The GOP is expected to easily retain its majority in the House in the Nov. 6 election.

Stutzman said about Mourdock: “He has never been an extremist.… He is a mainstream conservative Republican. He was a conservative Republican before the tea party was even around, and he was tea party before it was even cool."

Elizabeth Shappell, communications director for Donnelly, said in an email: "Just this week, Richard Mourdock told a paper in southern Indiana that he thinks employers should have the right not to cover cancer treatment. This, in addition to the fact that he had questioned the constitutionality of Social Security and Medicare, demonstrates Mourdock's extreme, TEA Party ideas that are bad for Indiana."

For more on this story, see Friday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. Friday.