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The Primary Education of Indiana’s Dick Lugar

Shira Toeplitz/Roll Call
Sen. Dick Lugar signs DVDs at a fundraiser in Terre Haute on Friday.

“They want to be very careful,” Lugar told Roll Call. “They see no particular reason to be investing in my race and taking any chances whatsoever. It’s a very prudent course for many of my colleagues. I fully understand their trepidation and anxieties as they approach their candidacies.”

Lugar’s recent actions have indicated he might also be feeling the heat.

The ranking member on the Foreign Relations Committee is the most vocal in the chamber when it comes to chastising the White House for the military intervention in Libya.

Lugar also signed on to co-sponsor the Fair Tax bill last month. He’s backed the proposal since he briefly ran for president in 1996, but the initiative is also popular with conservative activists.

“I’m not pandering to anybody,” Lugar said. “I’m simply taking stances that I believe are best for our country, best for Hoosiers, and I’ll continue to make my stands on that basis.”

In his long-winded update on Washington to his supporters Friday evening, Lugar glazed over his work in the lame-duck session, including spearheading the ratification of START and co-sponsoring the DREAM Act. Senate Democratic leaders backed both initiatives, which are unpopular among conservative Republicans.

This spring, Lugar declined to again co-sponsor the DREAM Act. He said this change came as a reaction to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) using the immigration reform legislation in a speech to “satisfy persons who were dissatisfied with Reid and the president and Democrats for not passing immigration reform or the DREAM Act the year before.”

But Lugar’s greatest legislative test, in the view of primary voters, might be yet to come.

Hoosier Republicans will monitor Lugar’s vote when Congress takes up raising the debt ceiling later this month.

He stressed how important it is to raise the debt ceiling, but he would not say unequivocally that he would vote for it.

He said he’s working with Republicans to ensure spending cuts are greater than the amount the debt ceiling is raised.

“It will be important to raise the debt ceiling because failure to do so would be catastrophic to the ability of this country to borrow money, to have an active bond market,” Lugar said in the interview. “I believe we would have repercussions in the stock market that would be very severe.”

Waiting on Mitch?

National conservative groups have identified Lugar, along with fellow GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), as their top targets for defeat next year. But, so far, conservatives in Washington, D.C., are hesitant to rally behind Mourdock.

“I think they’re just kind of waiting. I think they recognize how formidable a 35-year incumbent is in this state,” Mourdock said in an interview last week following a speech to the Corydon Tea Party in Southern Indiana. “I have one group in D.C. that is absolutely convinced — and this is the craziest thing I’ve run across — they’re absolutely convinced Mitch Daniels is going to get in. They don’t know Mitch Daniels, and Mitch Daniels would be the most miserable person in the United States Senate ever.”

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