Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) has a new TV ad attacking his challenger in the Republican primary, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. And while Lugar is currently favored in the primary, the very fact that he has a negative ad out shows the seriousness of the primary contest itself.
As Mary Beth Schneider of the Indianapolis Star says: “First negative ad I remember from Lugar ever.”
And if it’s not Lugar’s first negative spot ever, it’s certainly his first in a very, very long time.
Way back in 1974, when he was Mayor of Indianapolis, Lugar narrowly lost a Senate race to a Democratic incumbent in the middle of a Dem wave year. He then defeated another Dem incumbent in 1976 by a landslide margin. He won a 54%-46% re-election in 1982, and in the 30 years since then he has never received less than 66% of the vote — indeed, in his last race in 2006, he didn’t have any Democratic opponent at all, wining by 87%-13% against a Libertarian candidate.
In short, it’s been a while since Lugar has had any sort of vulnerability.
“Whoa! Mud? Really? Mourdock and his DC cronies are attacking Senator Lugar again?” the announcer says. “Typical, desperate, 11-time candidate Richard Mourdock is throwing mud to hide his own record — like Mourdock failing to show up for his taxpayer-funded job, 66% of the time. And proposing a budget so irresponsible, one expert called it ‘ridiculous’, and ‘too goofy for words.’ Serious times demand serious leaders — that’s Dick Lugar.”
Mourdock has picked up the support of the Club For Growth, the right-wing economic group known for going after incumbent Republicans and establishment favorites in the primaries.
At the same time, Lugar has been grappling with his own tricky political issue: that he lives mainly in northern Virginia, and has not owned a home in Indiana itself since 1977, the year after he was first elected to the Senate.
Lugar’s campaign has cited the Indiana Constitution, and the opinions of current and past state attorneys general, to show that Lugar did not legally lose his residency when he left for Washington to serve the state as its senator decades ago. However, they have also struggled with the appropriate public messaging — such as comparing this legal status to that of military service.