Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) is currently in the fight for his political life. Despite his status as the most senior Republican member of the US Senate, Lugar is in danger of losing his 2012 primary to Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. A poll conducted by Basswood Research on behalf of the conservative Club for Growth put Mourdock at 34% with Lugar trailing by 2 points. The numbers reflect the opinions of 500 likely Republican voters and come with a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.
Those numbers should scare Senator Lugar, who has never faced a major primary challenge in his lengthy career. In the same poll, when asked whether Lugar “has done some good things for Indiana, but after thirty-five years in Washington, it’s time for a change,” 69% said it is true, while only 19% said it is untrue. (12% did not know or refused to answer.)
Lugar’s relationship with pro-life advocates has been rocky during his time in the Senate. Lugar should be commended for supporting pro-life initiatives like the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, the Mexico City Policy, the de-funding of Planned Parenthood and the repeal of Obamacare. However, Lugar alienated pro-life advocates with votes in favor of embryonic stem cell research and his enthusiastic support for President Obama’s two pro-abortion Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Even before Sotomayor’s nomination made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Lugar announced he would vote to confirm her. A year later, Lugar jumped at the chance to support Elena Kagan, becoming the first Republican not on the Judiciary Committee to support her confirmation.
Perhaps due to his mounting primary problems or out of party loyalty, Lugar voted to reject President Obama’s nomination of pro-abortion Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in May.
Lugar’s primary challenger, Richard Mourdock, has seized the opportunity to blast Lugar for supporting President Obama’s pro-abortion nominees. Unlike Lugar, Mourdock states on his campaign website that he “…would have voted against Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, citing clear evidence of their strongly held liberal biases toward government-supported legal abortion…”
Mourdock also criticized Lugar for not joining with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 32 other Republicans in signing a legal brief in support of Florida’s lawsuit challenging Obamacare, even though Indiana is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. Mourdock strongly opposes Obamacare, noting its mandated funding for abortion-on-demand.
In describing his position on Roe vs. Wade, Mourdock states he is “strongly pro-life and believes that Roe v. Wade represents a serious misreading of the original intent of those who established our Constitution.”
Lugar and Mourdock are battling it out for top conservative Indiana endorsements- the top prizes being the endorsements of Governor Mitch Daniels, Representative Mike Pence (who is currently running for Governor) and Senator Dan Coats.
Governor Daniels has already stated he will vote for Senator Lugar, for whom he used to serve as an aide. Mourdock also notes his own close relationship with the popular governor, claiming it was Daniels who encouraged him to run in the first place. Mourdock told Hotline On Call in an interview: “Before I decided to do this, (Daniels) and I had three different conversations about it and every time, he said, ‘Richard Mourdock, don’t you ever, ever, ever let anyone tell you don’t have every right to do this. You’ve earned the right. You worked 31 years in the business world. We don’t have that kind of experience very often in Washington.”
Rep. Pence and Sen. Coats have thus far pledged to remain neutral in the race. However, Lugar has managed to earn the endorsements of 24 Republican mayors throughout Indiana in addition to 6 former Republican mayors and 3 mayoral candidates. Mourdock touts the endorsements of the state executive committee and 74% of local party chairs. Now, with the backing of influential conservative groups like the Club for Growth, it appears the momentum is on Mourdock’s side.