INDIANAPOLIS — Of all the words written about the showdown between U.S. Senator Richard Lugar and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, this headline from a recent news story may sum it up best: “Indiana’s GOP Senate Primary Will Be A Doozy.”
That’s not a headline the six-term Lugar and his supporters expected a year ago. At 80, the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate hasn’t had a primary challenger since 1976 -- the year Gerald Ford narrowly defeated Ronald Reagan in the GOP presidential primary.
It is the kind of headline Mourdock, 60, and his backers have been predicting. When he announced his decision last year to launch an intra-party challenge, Moudock cited results of a survey that found a majority of Republican primary voters were willing to consider voting for someone other than Lugar.
Mourdock has spent the months since then explaining why GOP voters should replace a man who’s been venerated as an elder statesman. Lugar, in his influential role on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, long ago landed a place in the history books: after the Cold War ended, he helped negotiate a bipartisan plan to divest the former Soviet Union of its nuclear and chemical weapons. He forged a similar plan in 2005 with then-Sen. Barack Obama to provide assistance to countries that wanted to rid themselves of weapons of mass destruction.
”Hoosiers want more than a globe-trotting Senator,” Mourdock declared when he announced his candidacy. Later, he told the Wall Street Journal: “We’re convinced that Republican voters in Indiana want a more conservative voice.”
Mourdock, in his second term as state treasurer, has been working to convince primary voters he’s that voice. He argues the federal government has veered far from the Founding Father’s original intent; in 2009, in his role overseeing Indiana pension funds which had a stake in Chrysler, he opposed the federal government’s bailout of the bankrupt auto maker as unconstitutional.