Learning from the movement's stumbles in 2010, a grassroots collection laid the groundwork to defeat the six-term Indiana senator.
The Tea Party, an unsteady movement that was beginning to resemble a wayward ship in 2012, found its north star in Indiana on Tuesday night.
State Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeated six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, a victory owing to the incumbent's inept campaign, the outside groups that lashed him on the air, and a story about his out-of-state residency that would not go away. But well before those issues got a foothold, a grassroots-driven, local movement to unseat Lugar was well under way.
Sixteen months ago, a collection of Tea Party organizers met in the city of Tipton. Their goal was to address flaws in the movement that were exposed in 2010, when infighting and competing agendas largely driven by national groups and consultants hindered its ability to make lasting gains. What resulted was "Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate," a network of 60 Tea Party groups dedicated to retiring Lugar.
"We didn't have the unity [in 2010]. Once we built the foundation of unity, we went out and educated people about Lugar's voting record," said Monica Boyer, one of the group's cofounders.
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The group endorsed Mourdock after a September straw poll showed that he was the preferred choice of conservative activists. National groups like the Tea Party Express that in 2010 were responsible for the rise of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska had yet to enter fray in a major way. The national group FreedomWorks had met with Boyer's organization, but it didn't jump in with full force until Mourdock emerged as the consensus candidate.