Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Election

May 7, 2012

Senate primary rivals in final push for voters

INDIANAPOLIS — Inside his campaign headquarters in Indianapolis, there’s a photo of U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar shaking hands with former U.S. Secretary Condoleeza Rice, one of the many Republican party heavyweights who’ve endorsed his return his office.

Pinned to the photo is a makeshift caption, intended to be humorous. “Thanks for the endorsement,” Lugar appears to be saying. “Can you make some phone calls now?”

It may not seem so funny anymore.

In the waning hours of a hard-fought campaign, Lugar volunteers and staff are calling Hoosiers across the state with an urgent plea to turn out for the primary election.

They’re working to turn what appears to be an ominous tide. Late last week, the independent Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll showed the longest serving Republican in the U.S. Senate was losing a lot of ground and may be headed toward defeat.

As of mid-afternoon Sunday, the Lugar campaign had made more than 1.4 million phone calls to voters who had been “micro-targeted” as likely Lugar supporters. More than 70,000 were made in the final weekend’s “get out the vote” push.

At the Lugar phone bank in Indianapolis, every time a campaign caller found a Lugar supporter on the other end, a bell would ring.

”It really helps morale,” said Wayne Stanley, a 25-year-old Kokomo native who’s running the Lugar phone banks. “You hear the bells ringing and you know this is working.”

The fear among Lugar backers -- and the hope of supporters of his intra-party rival Richard Mourdock -- is that won’t work enough to overcome what the Howey/DePauw poll found was a 10 point deficit in Mourdock’s favor.

After the news of the poll broke on Friday, the 80-year-old Lugar issued a kind of call to action to Democrats and independents by pointing out they could vote for him in the GOP open primary.

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