Anti-tax group, Lugar get early start in U.S. Senate race

July 20, 2011

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(Getty Images/Win McNamee)
U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.

It is still eight months away from Indiana’s Republican primary but the attack ads are already starting — at least in one unexpected race.

The Washington, D.C.–based conservative group Club for Growth is targeting the iconic U.S. Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana in TV ads across the Hoosier state.

Club for Growth hits Lugar for voting in favor of bailouts for banks and car companies over the last five years in office. A clip from one of the ads runs, “Now with $14 trillion in debt, Lugar will soon vote on raising our debt limit even higher. After 35 long years, tell Richard Lugar: no more debt.”

The TV spots aim to aid Lugar’s opponent, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who’s garnered tea party support in the state. Mourdock’s campaign targets Lugar for being President Obama’s “favorite Republican.”

Lugar has won a reputation for working with members of both major parties, but his opponents depict his hospitality toward Democrats and President Obama as a crutch.

Lugar, in turn, is ramping up his own campaign for the Republican nomination, which will be decided in May. He is now airing his own TV ads, which criticize Obama’s stimulus plans and foreign policy decisions, including the conflict in Libya. Those ads are currently being broadcast throughout most of the state.

Mourdock has been making campaign stops throughout Indiana, even in the northwest section, an area Lugar has received little support from in past elections. In fact, the senator has never won a majority of votes in any general election within the Democratic stronghold of Lake County, though he maintains a regional office in nearby Porter County.

Democrats are watching the GOP primary contest closely. Under one scenario, a victory by Mourdock would benefit the currently unopposed Democrat, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-South Bend), who is leaving Congress to run for U.S. Senate. Democratic Party leaders believe Donnelly would have a better chance against Mourdock, who isn’t as widely known statewide as Lugar.