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Can He Pull it Off?

Richard Mourdock may be on his way to toppling Dick Lugar.

9:05 AM, May 1, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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In the remaining week, Lugar will try to convince Indiana Republicans that Mourdock is both unelectable in the general and not conservative enough. The second tactic is an intriguing line of attack, since it parrots what Mourdock has been saying about Lugar. To that end, the Lugar campaign has been emphasizing positions Mourdock took when he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1992. Back then, Mourdock told a newspaper in Evansville that he supported the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine, the rule that required equal time for opposing views on radio and stymied opinion talk radio until its repeal in the 1980s. Also during his 1992 campaign, Mourdock came out in opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and supported cutting back on foreign aid.

For his part, Mourdock says he’s changed in the last 20 years. “I’m certainly more conservative now than I was in 1992,” he admits, attributing his political shift to his work in the “world of finance.”

But what about the charge that Mourdock puts the otherwise safe GOP seat in play? Lugar, after all, has won easily all six of his Senate campaigns. A poll in late March, one of the few surveys of the race, shows Lugar ahead of the likely Democratic nominee, Congressman Joe Donnelly, by 21 points; Mourdock, meanwhile, ties Donnelly. Republicans risk losing the Senate seat if Mourdock is the nominee, the Lugar camp claims. 

Mourdock calls that scenario a “canard” and points to his 2010 reelection as state treasurer as proof he can win statewide and beat Donnelly. “In 2010, Joe Donnelly spent 2.2 million dollars to win by one point,” Mourdock says. “I got more votes than he did in his own district. I beat him in his own district.” President Barack Obama’s high unpopularity in a state he carried in 2008 and Mike Pence’s gubernatorial run to succeed Daniels also bode well for whichever Republican wins next Tuesday.

Hoosiers deciding in the last week may break for Lugar, if only because of their familiarity with the man whom they’ve sent to the Senate for 36 years. Then again, Indiana Republicans may very well be ready to trade in for a relatively younger, more conservative senator.

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