If Richard Mourdock wins Indiana's Senate race, he'll join a group of conservative senators who have at times clashed with conference leaders.
Asked at campaign event in April what he'd do if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to force him in line with a less rigidly conservative agenda, Mourdock recounted a meeting with Sen. Jim DeMint, who became a power center in the Senate after backing 2010's crop of conservative candidates, and who has been critical of McConnell.
"[DeMint] reached down, he's a tall guy, and put a hand on either shoulder, and said, 'Richard, you get me four or five more true conservatives, and we've just changed the leadership of the United States Senate,'" Mourdock said, recounting how he asked DeMint if it's worth replacing one Republican with another.
"He said that doesn't necessarily mean we even change the people, but you get me four or five more true conservatives, and we've just changed the way they're gonna see things because of our numbers," Mourdock said.
The following video was forwarded by a Democratic source:
Mourdock is challenging long-tenured Sen. Dick Lugar in a Republican primary today, and he's often said he's more frustrated with Republicans in Washington than with Democrats.
If Mourdock defeats Lugar, and goes onto beat Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in November, he'll become the Senate's latest tea partier, joining Kentucky's Rand Paul, Utah's Mike Lee, Florida's Marco Rubio, Wisconsin's Ron Johnson, and Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, all of whom won in 2010 with backing from DeMint and his PAC, the Senate Conservatives Fund.
While neither DeMint, nor anyone else has shown interest in challenging McConnell, there were rumblings of private dissatisfaction over how GOP leaders handled the debt-limit fight last summer, and DeMint criticized McConnell's strategy publicly. Other sources of tension: when Johnson ran for conference vice-chair, some believed McConnell favored Missouri's Roy Blunt, the freshman senator and former House GOP whip, an accusation McConnell's office calls categorically untrue; and McConnell's opposition in late April to holding another vote on health-reform repeal, after he forced one in February of last year.
Mourdock would be yet another ally for DeMint, shifting the Senate further to the right.