Dick Lugar works with Barack Obama
Forty years ago, Dick Lugar was called “Richard Nixon’s favorite mayor” for his support of turning control of some federal programs to local communities. Despite Nixon’s ignominious departure two years later, the label didn’t seem to hurt Lugar as he won a seat in the U.S. Senate from Indiana in 1976. He’s been there ever since. Now, campaigning for his seventh term, the 80-year-old Lugar has collected a new label from right-wingers: “Obama’s favorite Republican.”
On Tuesday, the Club for Growth will begin airing a 30-second TV ad and two 60-second radio spots. The TV ad backs state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in the primary, pointedly calling him “The Conservative Choice For Senate.” In one of the radio spots, the narrator says: “Dick Lugar might be a statesman, but he’s not a conservative [...] Lugar voted to raise the gas tax. Voted for the Wall Street bailout. The Fannie Mae bailout. He even voted to put taxpayers at risk bailing out New York City. [...] Lugar voted for each and every every Obama Supreme Court Justice. [...] Indiana conservatives deserve better than Obama’s favorite Republican.”
The National Rifle Association has a laundry list of things Lugar has done to irk the organization dating back to Lugar’s support for the 1993 assault-rifle ban. Of the seven other Republicans who voted for the ban, only Dan Coats, also of Indiana, is in the Senate.
The deep-voiced narrator of the NRA ad, which also backs Mourdock, says that some things, like “Indiana values” and “the protection of our Second Amendment and hunting rights” shouldn’t change. “But over 36 years in Washington, Dick Lugar has changed. He’s become the only Republican candidate in Indiana with an F rating from the NRA.” The ad buy in that case will be in the six figures.
These attacks added to the fact that Lugar hasn’t owned a home in Indiana for nearly 25 years and has spent less than 15 percent of his time in Indiana during his 35 years in the Senate, plus attacks from social conservative groups like the forced-birthers of Indiana Right to Life, the Tea Party Express and the tea party-connected FreedomWorks, and an approval rating below 50 percent, could give the senator a rough go of it in the May 8 primary. Quite the turnaround for someone who has never faced a primary opponent before and didn’t even have a Democrat running against him 2006.
“What we’re really seeing here is the erosion of the patience that American voters have historically had,” says former Utah senator Bob Bennett, a nominal conservative whose shocking ouster at his party’s 2010 state convention sent a terrifying message to incumbents everywhere. “The comment being made … is, ‘Well, you haven’t gotten it done for 36 years. What makes you think you can finally get it done in the next six years?’”
What we’re really seeing here is more of the effort to dump another moderate seen to be tainting the ranks of a party becoming ever more extremist in platform and temperament.