INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - They disagreed as Republican running mates during the 2008 presidential campaign, and on Friday John McCain and Sarah Palin endorsed rival candidates in the tight Indiana primary to determine if U.S. Senator Richard Lugar gets a shot at a seventh term.
"I join common sense conservatives in endorsing Richard Mourdock to be the next senator from Indiana," former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Palin said in a statement released by Tea Party favorite Mourdock's campaign.
Veteran Arizona Senator John McCain, who chose Palin as his running mate in a failed run for the presidency in 2008, came out in support of his colleague, Lugar, who began his first term in 1977.
McCain recorded a radio ad rebutting Mourdock's accusation that Lugar supports Democratic President Barack Obama too much.
"There are some in Indiana claiming Dick Lugar is Obama's friend - that's ridiculous," McCain says in the ad.
Palin countered that, "Indiana deserves a conservative in the Senate who will fight for the Hoosier State, uphold our Constitution, and not just go along to get along with the vested interests of the permanent political class in (Washington) D.C."
Palin said Lugar's years in office were "appreciated" but it was "time for the torch to pass to conservative leadership in Washington that promises to rein in government spending now."
Lugar, 80, was ahead of Indiana state Treasurer Mourdock, 60, by single digits in a recent poll. The winner of the May 8 primary faces Democratic U.S. Representative Joe Donnelly in November.
Since the 2008 election, former McCain campaign aides have said that Palin sometimes differed with the Republican nominee for president, even though she had agreed before she was picked to support his positions.
(Reporting By Susan Guyett and Andrew Stern; Editing by Greg McCune and Jackie Frank)