Senate Election 2012
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.
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.
Given that FreedomWorks had targeted Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) so heavily in the lead up to the Utah GOP convention last week — pointing out his atrocious voting record, which includes voting for half of the national debt during his time in Washington, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the group’s PAC has endorsed Dan Liljenquist, who will square off against Hatch in the June primary:
FreedomWorks for America announced today its endorsement of Dan Liljenquist, candidate for United States Senate representing Utah. Liljenquist won 40.8 percent of the delegate vote at last Saturday’s Utah GOP Convention, denying incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch the 60 percent necessary to avoid a June primary.
“Dan Liljenquist is an energetic fiscal conservative who will take a leading role in spending cuts and the repeal of ObamaCare from day one,” commented Russ Walker, National Political Director for FreedomWorks for America.
“We have been working with Utah conservatives since last May to elect the strongest and most consistent advocate for conservative economic policy, and Dan has proven himself to be the man for the job. He will be a great addition to support fellow Utah Senator Mike Lee expanding the conservative coalition in the Senate.”
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been focusing heavily on primary challenges to Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Dick Lugar (R-IN). This pair represent nearly everything wrong with the Republican Party in Washington as they’ve both been a consistant vote for expanding government and blowing taxpayer dollars.
There is another Senate race that deserve attention, one that we haven’t covered much. Over in Texas, David Dewhurst, who is backed by the GOP establishment nationally and in the state to succeed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, is still leading the pack, but Ted Cruz, who has received support from many of the same conservative grassroots groups backing candidates in other states, is quickly closing in:
Every time [Public Policy Polling] polls Texas the Republican Senate primary gets closer and closer. What was a 29 point lead for David Dewhurst in September has now been cut all the way down to 12 points. Dewhurst is at 38% to 26% for Ted Cruz, 8% for Tom Leppert, and 7% for Craig James.
Cruz’s support has increased from 12% to 18% to 26% over our last three polls. Meanwhile Dewhurst has remained stagnant in the 36-41% range. Cruz’s name recognition has increased from 29% to 48% with Republican primary voters since January and the change has almost all been positive. His favorability’s gone from 15/14 to 31/17. The other candidates have seen just modest gains in name recognition or none at all. Dewhurst’s favorability is 47/22, Leppert’s is 20/15, and James remains more disliked than popular with GOP voters at 14/21.
Leading into the Utah GOP convention on Saturday, many were predicting that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would manage to avoid a primary contest, and by extension the fate of his former colleague, Bob Bennett, in 2010. And while Hatch didn’t lose his bid for re-election, he will face Dan Liljenquist in a head-to-head matchup:
Sen. Orrin Hatch, forced into a primary election by a narrow vote of delegates at a weekend Utah Republican convention, heads into a nine-week campaign hoping his advantages in money, organization and name recognition will allow him to overwhelm a lesser-known opponent.
Mr. Hatch needed 60% of the convention vote to avoid a primary, but he fell short by 32 out of 3,908 cast. That means he will face his first primary opponent since he won election to the Senate in 1976. His rival will be former state Sen. Dan Liljenquist, who received just over 40% of convention delegate votes.
Mr. Liljenquist and his supporters, including tea-party activists, cast the result as a big win and an important step in their nationwide efforts to unseat Republicans they consider insufficiently conservative.
Dave Hanson, Mr. Hatch’s campaign manager, said Sunday the senator had overcome difficult odds, given that tea-party activists two years ago unseated Sen. Robert Bennett, another Utah GOP incumbent, at the convention that year by depriving him of a spot on the primary ballot. Republican Mike Lee went on to win the general election.
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.
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:
Over the last several months, libertarians have taken shots from all sides. During the Republican primary, Rick Santorum made it clear that he wasn’t fond of the libertarian viewpoint on nearly any matter in public policy and expressed concern about the philosophical influence in the Tea Party movement. Santorum even as far as knocking the Goldwater view of limited government.
More recently, libertarians have been wrongly attacked by Van Jones, a self-described communist and former Obama Administration appointee. During an Occupy Wall Street event, Jones called libertarians “bigots” and claimed that we are anti-gay rights; accusations that are completely false.
Now Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is getting in his shots.
Facing a fate similar to that of his former colleague, Bob Bennett, Hatch recently told NPR that he is “doggone offended” by “radical libertarians” that have gotten involved in the Senate primary in Utah:
This year, major conservative groups announced their intention of defeating Hatch — who they deemed too moderate. FreedomWorks has reportedly spent at least $670,000 attacking Hatch this cycle.
But the long-time senator isn’t sitting on his hands. Hatch told NPR’s Howard Berkes, “These people are not conservatives. They’re not Republicans.”
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.
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.