Stutzman already has secured support from Senate Conservatives Fund, one of the big spenders in Mourdock's 2012 general election. And the Club for Growth, another major financial driver for Mourdock, is full of praise. "Congressman Stutzman has an excellent record and would make a terrific senator," Club for Growth president David McIntosh said in a statement. The Club spent over $1 million bashing Lugar in 2012. "The GOP primary in Indiana is about a year away, so we don't feel any rush. If the Club for Growth PAC makes an endorsement in the race, we will have ample opportunity to engage in a very impactful way, as we typically do."
"With over four years in Washington, Marlin has proven his conservative bona fides by casting many tough votes like voting against John Boehner for Speaker, and by opposing executive amnesty and fighting to repeal Obamacare," the conservative Madison Project said in its endorsement of Stutzman, just days after he entered the race.
Even though Republicans have every reason to believe that Stutzman, a three-term congressman, can avoid the rhetorical mistakes and sharp edges that sank Mourdock in a red state, the reappearance of those outside groups already has stirred some post-traumatic stress.
" was a big moment for Indiana Republicans, and there's an overriding sense that we don't want to repeat those ills," said one Indiana Republican who is not affiliated in the race, but requested anonymity to speak candidly. "It's a mistake for those who would liken [Stutzman] or his campaign to that of Richard Mourdock "¦ but a lot of it, if you follow who he surrounds himself with, that's really important."
Stutzman's campaign points to his core team as evidence of a broader coalition around this candidate. While much of his young campaign has been about touting and boosting conservative credentials, Stutzman also has built a stable of political advisers spanning the GOP spectrum.
Stutzman's recent campaign hires include Rob Jesmer, who was the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the Mourdock race, and his business partner Terry Nelson, another veteran of the party committees. Stutzman's campaign manager, Brendon DelToro, served as chief of staff to Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski. And his general consultant, Brooks Kochvar, has worked for both swing-state Sen. Kelly Ayotte and friend-of-Cruz Sen. Mike Lee, too.
"[Stutzman's] goal is to unite the party with as many voters as possible, and the team around him reflects that," Kochvar told National Journal. "He's a member of Congress who has a solid conservative voting record that appeals to both primary and general election voters. "
Scott Reed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's senior political strategist, called the 2012 race "a cloud over Indiana and the entire country." It's something that his group spent millions trying to avoid in 2014 and wants to dodge again this election. But, Reed maintained, the Chamber is still "looking at, meeting with, and evaluating" all of the candidates involved in Indiana this election cycle. That includes Stutzman.