State Republicans look for unity amid turnover at top

Gov. Mitch Daniels roared onto the floor of the Indiana Republican Party's convention Saturday on his signature motorcycle and rallied the troops one last time with talk of his successes and vitriol for the Democrats he has kept out of the governor's office since 2005.

Daniels spoke during a shift in party leadership, as Republicans formally accepted U.S. Rep. Mike Pence as their candidate for governor and Richard Mourdock as their Senate candidate, one month after a primary in which he ousted longtime U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar. The GOP obliquely referred to its 2012 convention as "passing the torch," but signs of the split within Indiana's dominant party were evident throughout a series of speeches and party business.

In touting wins from his two terms in the governor's office, including the passage of his automatic tax refund, which sends a portion of the state's cash reserves back to taxpayers, Daniels got in a few more digs against Democrats and drew loud cheers from the crowd.

"To them, it's not your money except for what government absolutely must claim, it's their money for except for what they let you keep," he said.

Daniels, who has long held together the party's fiscally conservative and socially conservative wings, is term-limited from seeking re-election. He has foregone a presidential run and more or less ruled out joining a national ticket as vice president, either of which would have given Indiana Republicans a strong rallying point through the 2012 elections.

The past few months have marked a tumultuous time for the Republican party. Longtime standard-bearer Lugar lost decisively to Mourdock, by more than 20 percentage points in a lightly-attended Republican primary last month. Daniels' pending departure, meanwhile, has left the possibility of a split between the party's fiscal and social conservatives, although Pence has reached out to Daniels' many fans, in part by tapping some top aides to advise him on policy.

The still-tense relations were apparent Saturday when Pence praised the two Senate candidates. When he thanked Lugar for his service, delegates applauded consistently, and a few dozen stood up. But when Pence praised Mourdock, the vast majority of delegates stood up and cheered loudly, waving his campaign signs.

Lugar's support for Mourdock has been halting, punctuated by the statement that he will not actively campaign for the new Republican nominee.

In many ways, the current rallying point for Indiana Republicans has become delivering the state for the Republican presidential nominee, four years after President Barack Obama pulled out a surprising win in Indiana. Some of Pence's strongest applause lines came not when he was talking about his goals for Indiana, but when he was opposing federal policies.

"As your governor, I will fight for the right of every Hoosier to run our schools, buy our health care, build our roads and heat our homes without the heavy hand of the federal government breathing down our necks! Indiana must lead the fight for federalism: reject cap and trade and Obamacare!" he said.

Meanwhile, the growing power of the tea party and Ron Paul supporters within the party was apparent. Paul supporter Chris Retson, secretary of the Crown Point Republicans, proposed amending the party platform to call for an audit of the Federal Reserve. The pet cause among Paul supporters was unopposed by other Republicans and adopted on a nearly unanimous voice vote.

Paul supporters in other states have succeeded in winning seats at the national convention, but the state party's slating rules made it virtually impossible for any Paul delegates to win seats in Indiana's national delegation.

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