Indiana Senate: Coats to Stay Neutral in Lugar Primary

Posted: Feb 23, 2011 2:22 PM
Yesterday we reported that many Indiana GOP activists and state officials are beginning to coalesce around a conservative primary challenger to Sen. Dick Lugar as the 2012 cycle approaches.  WaPo's Chris Cillizza pointed out that key statewide Republicans Rep. Mike Pence and Gov. Mitch Daniels have pledged to sit out the primary rather than endorse the incumbent.  I contacted the office of Lugar's Hoosier State colleague, Republican Dan Coats, to see if the newly (re)-elected member plans to lend his support to the man with whom he currently serves in the US Senate.  No dice.  Via Coats' press secretary, Matt Lahr:

"Senator Coats has taken the position of not endorsing primary candidates and is leaving that decision to the voters of Indiana."

Perhaps some Republicans are learning the lessons of 2010.

UPDATE Salon's Steve Kornacki has a suggestion for Indiana Democrats:

The opportunity for Democrats is obvious, and it's apparently already being talked about in Indiana: Convince Lugar to switch parties and run for reelection on the Democratic line next year.

"That won't happen," says a well-connected Republican strategist, dismissing any party switch talk.  He did, however, suggest things could get "ugly" for Lugar in the GOP primary:  "I don't think [the Lugar camp] fully comprehends what's coming their way.  When you're a 30-year incumbent, and the state executive committee and 77 percent of local party chairs endorse your primary opponent, that should be an eye-opener."

Might the 78-year-old Lugar retire if he sees the writing on the wall?  The strategist said he "wouldn't be shocked" if it came to that, but stressed that any such decision is "a long way off -- right now, he's definitely running."  Lugar, who ran virtually unopposed in the horrible Republican year of 2006, has more than $2.5 Million in his campaign war chest and held a lucrative fundraiser for his re-election in Indianapolis in late January.