Dick Lugar's Primary Opponent Gaining Steam

Posted: Feb 22, 2011 8:46 AM
Can Indiana Republicans do better than new START treaty co-sponsor, Elena Kagan supporter, and earmarks defender Senator Dick Lugar?   Many in the state party seem to think so:

Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock will launch his primary challenge to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) on Tuesday with the support of a majority of both the state's 92 Republican county chairmen and its state party executive committee, he told the Fix in a recent interview.

"I feel bad that he's going to be humiliated by this list," Mourdock said.

Mourdock added that he believes Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Rep. Mike Pence (R), the party's two leading figures in the Hoosier State, are going to stay neutral in the primary -- though Daniels, who was Lugar's campaign manager three different times, has already committed to voting for the senator.

That such a large contingent of the party establishment should come out against or withhold support from an incumbent senator is highly unusual and reflects the difficult path ahead for Lugar in advance of the May 8, 2012, primary fight. It also suggests there is a clear path to victory for Mourdock.

Much of the base long ago abandoned Lugar, whose tenuous fence-mending efforts haven't borne much fruit.  Rank-and-file party officials now appear to be lining up behind Mourdock, and Pence and Daniels' neutrality could sound Lugar's political death knell.  If early polls look ugly, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Hoosier State's senior Senator take the Bingaman/Webb route and pull the ejector cord.  

UPDATE:  We now know who Lugar/Mourdock's general election opponent won't be:

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth says he won't run for Indiana governor -- or any other office -- next year.

Ellsworth told the Evansville Courier & Press on Monday that he won't run for any office in 2012. Ellsworth lost to Republican Dan Coats in November's U.S. Senate race to succeed Evan Bayh, who did not seek re-election.
Ellsworth, you'll recall, ran for the open US Senate seat vacated by Evan Bayh last year.  It didn't end well.