Tea party takes shot at Lu­gar in In­di­ana

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY AN­DREA BILLUPS

He has served six terms in the Se­nate and won his last race with 87 per­cent of the vote, but that hasn’t pre­vented In­di­ana Sen. Richard G. Lu­gar from emerg­ing as per­haps the most vul­ner­a­ble Repub­li­can se­na­tor of the 2012 elec­tion cy­cle. And the big dan­ger is com­ing from Mr. Lu­gar’s right flank.

In a re­play of sev­eral mar­quee Se­nate pri­mary bat­tles from two years ago, the mod­er­ate Mr. Lu­gar finds him­self in the crosshairs of the state’s grow­ing and in­creas­ingly restive tea party fac­tions. They ques­tion his con­ser­va­tive cre­den­tials and have made his ouster a top pri­or­ity.

Hoosiers­for­con­ser­va­tivese­n­ate.com, one of the group’s gun­ning for Mr. Lu­gar, slams his record, cit­ing his stand on gun con­trol (he earned a D+ from the National Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion), his re­fusal to sign a le­gal brief chal­leng­ing the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the Obama health care law, his back­ing for the TARP Wall Street bailout in 2008 and what they claim is a poor track record on such is­sues as govern­ment spend­ing, im­mi­gra­tion and sup- port for “lib­eral-minded” judges.

And not only do they want Mr. Lu­gar out, In­di­ana con­ser­va­tives know who they want in.

Even though long­time lib­er­tar­ian can­di­date An­drew Horn­ing sig­naled last week that he will en­ter the race, most see state Trea­surer Richard Mour­dock as the clear Repub­li­can chal­lenger for Mr. Lu­gar in the pri­mary af­ter state Sen. Mike Delph an­nounced last month that he would not run.

While Mr. Delph’s with­drawal is a ma­jor break for Mr. Mour­dock, he still faces a sub­stan­tial dis­ad­van­tage in money and name recog­ni­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion re­ports through the sec­ond quar­ter of the year, Mr. Mour­dock had $215,000 cash on hand com­pared with $3.5 mil­lion for Mr. Lu­gar.

“De­feat­ing Sen. Lu­gar is and has been a pri­or­ity for tea party ac­tivists,” said Jen­nifer Duffy, who an­a­lyzes Se­nate races for the Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port in Washington.

“Tea party ac­tivists in In­di­ana are very united against Lu­gar, al­low­ing Mour­dock to con­sol­i­date that vote. But this race isn’t over be­cause in­de­pen­dents can vote in the GOP pri­mary.”

Un­like fel­low GOP in­cum­bent Sen. Or­rin G. Hatch, who has moved to shore up his right flank to head off a pri­mary chal­lenge in Utah, Mr. Lu­gar has tried to float above the fray, tout­ing his record and clout in Washington in re­cent trips around the state.

“I re­spect the right of any­one to want to run for the United States Se­nate,” is about the most provoca­tive com­ment he has made in re­cent weeks.

Mr. Mour­dock, a lawyer who owns a mar­ket­ing firm, has long had his eye on Washington. He lost the Repub­li­can pri­mary for a U.S. House seat in 1988 and then lost two gen­eral elec­tion races for the same seat in 1990 and 1992.

He turned to state pol­i­tics and was elected state trea­surer in 2006 and re-elected in 2010, an­nounc­ing plans to chal­lenge Mr. Lu­gar just two months later. He is per­haps best known na­tion­ally for mount­ing a le­gal chal­lenge to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Chrysler bank­ruptcy plan.

Mr. Mour­dock has been en- dorsed by GOP pres­i­den­tial con­tender Her­man Cain as well as Steve Forbes, ra­dio pun­dit Mark Levin and in­flu­en­tial con­ser­va­tive blog­ger Erick Erick­son of Red­state.com. Other lead­ing tea party and fis­cal con­ser­va­tive groups are said to be con­sid­er­ing an en­dorse­ment if Mr. Mour­dock’s cam­paign proves to be vi­able.

A July poll by the con­ser­va­tive Club for Growth showed a tight race, with Mr. Mour­dock lead­ing Mr. Lu­gar 34 per­cent to 32 per­cent among likely GOP vot­ers, but with 34 per­cent un­de­cided. The se­na­tor’s own in­ter­nal polling of 600 likely GOP pri­mary vot­ers, how­ever, found him lead­ing his chal­lenger 45 per­cent to 31 per­cent.

Democrats in In­di­ana, who ap­pear united be­hind three-term Rep. Joe Don­nelly of South Bend as their can­di­date, are count­ing on the GOP pri­mary to split the op­po­si­tion, giv­ing them a rare op­por­tu­nity to pick up a Se­nate seat in a tough elec­tion year.

“This pri­mary is go­ing to di­vide In­di­ana Repub­li­cans in a painful way,” said Daniel Parker, chair­man of the In­di­ana Demo­cratic Party in a re­cent fundrais­ing ap­peal. “Good thing we don’t have that prob­lem.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHO­TOGRAPHS

Sen. Richard Lu­gar, In­di­ana Repub­li­can, has served six terms in the Se­nate but ap­pears vul­ner­a­ble in 2012 as restive tea party fac­tions ques­tion his con­ser­va­tive cre­den­tials. Most see state Trea­surer Richard Mour­dock (right) as the clear chal­lenger in the pri­mary.

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