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Odds Are Against Lugar in Bid for Seventh Term

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Lugar’s stubbornness — or dedication to principle, if you prefer — has earned him a formidable primary opponent and the opposition of three-quarters of GOP county chairmen, who already are backing state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Mourdock, who will almost certainly be Lugar’s main primary opponent, is wooing conservatives, including tea party activists, who aren’t likely to make the same mistake that they did in 2010, when multiple tea party primary candidates divided the conservative vote and handed Coats the nomination.

But the state treasurer’s profile isn’t that of a pure outsider. Not only does he begin with the support of dozens of GOP county leaders, but he has been running for office and serving in government for years.

Mourdock ran for Congress in 1990 and 1992 before winning election to the Vanderburgh County Commission in the mid-1990s. He served there until 2002. Four years later, he was elected state treasurer, and last year he was re-elected to that office.

Still, his campaign website bio clearly portrays him in an ideological light: “A solid conservative, Richard is a popular speaker at Republican events and Tea Party rallies alike. Richard’s conservative message of constitutionally limited government was heard by over one million people during the 9-12 March on Washington in 2009.”

Mourdock’s Senate website also includes a “Lugar vs. Mourdock” section that portrays Lugar as a far-left admirer and supporter of President Barack Obama.

The section includes some accurate and fair information, but it also has its share of outrageous and over-the-top assertions that are obviously misleading.

For example, in asserting that “Lugar appeared in a campaign television advertisement for Obama during the 2008 presidential election,” it clearly misleads the reader to believe that Lugar offered some sort of testimonial for Obama. The truth is that Obama’s campaign used Lugar’s image in a TV spot about nuclear proliferation to present Obama in a bipartisan light and to tap the Republican’s reputation for thoughtfulness.

Whatever you think of Mourdock’s characterization of Lugar’s record, the Senator’s 35-year career in the chamber gives the challenger plenty of ammunition in a primary. Given the direction of the GOP these days and the public’s continued desire of change, it would be a stunning achievement if Lugar were to win renomination next year in a one-on-one race.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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