Will Indiana “Retire Lugar” tonight?

One of the races you should be watching closely this year is the Indiana Senate race. Longtime Senator Dick Lugar is finally getting what appears to be a worthy challenger in a primary election this time around. Lugar has been despised by conservatives for some time, despite the “R” behind his name.

Among other things, Lugar voted to confirm Sotomayor and Kagan to the Supreme Court, has a history of voting to raise the debt ceiling, and voted in favor of the NDAA (indefinite detention of Americans). He was suspected to be supporting SOPA/PIPA (the Internet censorship bills), but he never committed one way or the other. Lack of a spine on that issue didn’t sit well with conservatives, either.

So now he’s in a primary, and it’s a primary he could very well lose. Some recent polling shows challenger Richard Mourdock is in a statistical tie with Lugar while other polling shows Mourdock has a good lead over Lugar. Mourdock wasn’t favored to beat Lugar, but he’s got some things going in his favor in this election.

Anti-Incumbent Sentiment. People still don’t like incumbents, and for the most part, I don’t blame them. Lugar doesn’t have a good history when it comes to his voting record, and Mourdock isn’t shy about pointing that out.

Support from conservative interest groups. The conservative groups see Lugar as being vulnerable this time around, and they’ve put their support behind Mourdock. FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth are two of the big conservative interest groups in Mourdock’s camp.

Lugar, Mourdock race coming down to the wire

It looks like the race between Dick Lugar and Richard Mourdock is getting ugly as we get closer to next week’s Republican Senate primary in Indiana. According to the National Review, the two exchanged blows recently with Mourdock questioning whether Lugar will support the eventual nominee and Lugar slamming Mourdock over spending cuts.

But the fight that Lugar has suddenly showed in the race may be too little, too late, as The Fix notes that his allies and PACs that were supporting his campaign are pulling out of the state at the last moment, indicating that his career may indeed be finished:

Lugar’s allies no longer seem interested in beating up the man who could very well be their nominee come November.

The American Action Network, a Republican-backing outside group*, is pulling its ads in support of Lugar off the air Tuesday. “We’ve decided we’re going to let this race play out,” said spokesman Dan Conston.
Lugar had millions of dollars more than Mourdock in the bank. He could have used his overwhelming financial edge to define Mourdock months ago, the way Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did former Rep. J.D. Hayworth in the 2010 primary while shoring up his own conservative bonafides.

The old conventional wisdom for incumbents — don’t punch down and elevate your opponent — no longer applies.

Internal polling shows Mourdock tied with Lugar

It looks like it just got real for Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN). As you know, the 30+ year Senator is locked in a tough primary battle against Richard Mourdock, who is running to his right and has received the backing of several prominent conservative groups. Recent polls have showed Lugar holding a small lead ahead of the May 8th primary. However, a new internal poll from Mourdock shows the Lugar down by a point, though inside the margin of error:

With the primary less than three weeks away, Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock is in a statistical dead heat against Sen. Richard Lugar, according to the results of a poll conducted for his campaign that were released on Wednesday. Mourdock leads Lugar 42 percent to 41 percent in a survey that was taken on Monday and Tuesday.

Mourdock’s slight advantage is well within the margin of error, but it represents a departure from most of the public polling taken on the race, which has mostly shown Lugar with a lead.

Forty-seven percent of respondents said they had a favorable opinion of Lugar while 39 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of him. Forty-six percent said they held an favorable opinion of Mourdock while 22 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion.

National Review backs Richard Mourdock in Indiana

The primary between Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Richard Mourdock, who has been backed by prominent conservative groups, has been very interesting. It’s not necessarily a new story. Back in 2010, when the Tea Party movement was at its peak, several conservative challengers in House districts and Senate races across the country managed to beat establishment-backed candidates or incumbents. Many we’re subsequently successful in general elections, some weren’t so lucky.

It’s no secret that conservatives have their issues with Lugar, including many previously mentioned here before. FreedomWorks recently put out a voters guide (PDF) outlining many of the fiscal issues where has fallen short. However, Lugar’s problems haven’t just been limited to his voting record.

Lugar is now faced with the editors of the National Review, an influential conservative magazine, endorsing his more conservative opponent ahead of the May 8th primary:

VIDEO: Lugar, Mourdock square off in debate

Last week, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) squared off against his primary opponent, Richard Mourdock, in the only debate before voters head to the polls on Tuesday, May 8th.

Since the primary is hotly contested with establishment Republicans going to bat for Lugar and conservative and Tea Party groups backing Mourdock, you’d think that the debate would be contentious. But press reports indicate that the debate was relatively mild with Lugar unable to make any headway against Mourdock, who did well against the incumbent Senator.

In case you missed it, you can watch the debate below. You can also checkout some takeaways the debate between Lugar and Mourdock via Politico:

Club for Growth, NRA launch ad blitz against Dick Lugar

It’s obvious that Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) has a target on his back from conservatives in the upcoming primary. Grassroots organizations and advocacy groups have made that much clear to this point, choosing his primary opponent, Richard Mourdock, due to his votes for tax hikes, support for wasteful earmarks, and tax hikes.

Lugar’s bid for re-electioned was been bogged down in March, thanks to a ruling that he was ineligble to vote in the state — though that has now been resolved — and having to payback $14,000 to taxpayers for hotel bills. Lugar also received the “kiss of death” from former Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican turned Democrat that voted for the stimulus and ObamaCare.

However, these conservative groups had been relatively quiet on the ad from…that was until yesterday when the Club for Growth and the National Rifle Association dropped a bomb on Lugar a month before the May 8th primary (you can watch the ads below):

The National Rifle Association and the Club for Growth, two heavy-hitting conservative groups, are launching ads that paint Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) as a Washington insider and boost his Tea Party opponent, Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R).

Dick Lugar pays back taxpayers $14,000 in hotel spending

If you’ve been paying attention to the Republican Senate primary in Indiana, you know that Sen. Dick Lugar has had a rough time lately. Last month, he was declared to be ineligble to vote after not being able to produce proof of a permanent residence inside the state.

But it keeps getting worse for Lugar as he has had to pay $14,000 back to taxpayers for spending on hotels when he visited Indiana:

Sen. Dick Lugar is paying back more than $14,000 to the federal Treasury — three times his earlier estimate — after a closer review of his 35-year career found he owed additional money for hotel stays in the Indianapolis area.

The Indiana Republican said Friday that an investigation by the Senate’s disbursing office initiated at his request found he improperly billed taxpayers for his hotel stays for all but seven years during his time in office, amounting to $14,684.85. He cut a personal check paying that amount on Friday.

“Your office has compiled a comprehensive list documenting cases in which I incurred per diem expenses during trips that included a stop in Indianapolis … during August recess periods and sine die adjournments,” Lugar said in a letter to Christopher Doby, financial clerk of the Senate. “Vouchers for per diem expenses incurred in the Indianapolis area during these periods should not have been submitted or paid, even though they all pertained to official business.”

Lugar suggests he paid more back to the Senate out of caution. Lugar’s admission came after he acknowledged last week that he erroneously billed taxpayers $4,500 for hotel stays after a review by his staff of records dating to 1991. He began the inquiry after POLITICO asked about the matter, and later acknowledged the errors.

Club for Growth to run ads against Dick Lugar

This isn’t exactly a surprise, but the Club for Growth has purchased air-time in Indiana as they hope to derail Sen. Dick Lugar’s bid for re-election. The ad the Club is running ties Lugar to the $15 trillion national debt and slams him for backing the Wall Street bailout, gas and payroll tax hikes, and opposing spending cuts.

Lugar has faced some problems recently. As we’ve noted, the Marion County Board of Elections determined that Lugar was not eligible to vote in the county, presumably nowhere else in the state, finding that his primary residence is in Virginia. Richard Mourdock has also been creeping up on Lugar in the polls. And he secured an endorsement from former Sen. Arlen Specter, who left the GOP in 2010 for the Democratic Party when it became clear that he would not beat Pat Toomney.

Here’s the ad from the Club for Growth:

Arlen Specter: “Vote for Dick Lugar”

It really has been a bad month for Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN). He’s been caught up in a residency controversy and his primary challenger, Richard Mourdock, has been gaining on him in the polls. But now Lugar has another headache to deal with thanks to an endorsement from former Sen. Arlen Specter.

While appearing on C-SPAN yesterday, Specter took a call from Indiana and, with being asked his opinion in the race, said, “Vote for Dick Lugar”:

Ordinarily, endorsements are something to brag about through press releases and while on the stump. But Specter hasn’t been very friendly to Republicans in the last two years. While still a Republican, he voted for the stimulus bill. After it was obvious that he would lose a primary challenge to now-Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), he bolted from the GOP. Specter would eventually go on to back ObamaCare, which was just another mark on his record of growing government and harming taxpayers.

So yeah, this isn’t the kind of endorsement you want when you’re an already vulnerable incumbent locked in a tough primary match at a time when conservatives are wary and suspicious of you.

Richard Mourdock in striking distance of Dick Lugar

It’s been a really bad month for Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN). He was ruled to be ineligble to vote last week in Indiana, and now new polling, though from a Democratic firm, shows that he is not just vulnerable in the Republican primary; but also the general election:

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is barely leading his primary opponent, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, less than two months before the primary, according to a Democratic poll released today.

The numbers showed the six-term Senator in rough shape but still ahead of Mourdock, 45 percent to 39 percent.

Lugar faces the toughest re-election campaign of his career in the May 8 primary. Since the start of this cycle, Republicans viewed him as vulnerable in a primary, but polling of his race has been scarce in part because Indiana law restricts automated calls, including polling.

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) will run against the winner of the GOP primary, and Democrats view Lugar as a more competitive candidate in the general election. Donnelly’s campaign released the GOP primary poll numbers in a memo from his pollster, Global Strategy Group.

The pollster also noted that Lugar’s lead has been cut in half from a similar poll in October, which showed Lugar leading Mourdock by 12 points, 48 percent to 36 percent.

Lugar isn’t going well right now. The residency issues aren’t the only thing that have voters skeptical of him. He’s record in the Senate is terrible. He’s been almost assured to do the wrong thing, including backing TARP, Medicare Part D, and expanding other big government programs.

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