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Indiana Senate Primary Heating Up

5:02 PM, Feb 21, 2012 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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At Politico, David Cantanese reports on how Indiana’s underfunded underdog, state treasurer Richard Mourdock, is getting some help in his challenge of six-term Senate incumbent Dick Lugar in that race’s Republican primary:

The Club for Growth — which endorsed Mourdock last week — Freedom Works and Tea Party Express are all seeking to boost Mourdock’s chances of ousting six-term Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who is currently leading his challenger in the polls by double-digits and holds a significant financial lead over him two months before the May 8 GOP primary. Republican activists say that Mourdock is unlikely to win without outside help.

It’s the first real, and maybe only legitimate, chance to knock off a sitting senator this cycle in a year that is shaping up as more favorable to incumbents in primaries than 2010. Lugar and Utah GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch are the only two Republican senators with any serious competition this cycle after three incumbents — Arlen Specter (D), Lisa Murkowksi (R) and Bob Bennett (R) — lost their primaries two years ago. Hatch’s fate will be decided in an April convention of party activists.

Lugar seems to be responding to this threat with a couple new television ads. The first says that his “record on cutting government spending is clear.” Watch it below:

The Club for Growth, which, as Cantanese notes, recently endorsed Mourdock, shot back at the ad with a press release calling Lugar’s spending record “abysmal.” The Club’s president, former Indiana congressman Chris Chocola, called Lugar a “pro-bailout big government Republican” in a statement.

The second ad obliquely addresses an issue the Mourdock campaign and its Tea Party allies have raised--Lugar’s Indiana residency:

Mourdock held a news conference Wednesday morning in front of the northwest side home that Lugar uses as a voting residence, even though he sold the home in 1977.

Mourdock stressed that he isn't going after Lugar's right to vote in Indiana, but said he does believe Lugar is violating the U.S. Constitution, which requires a senator to be an inhabitant of the state at the time of election.

"What we're asking today is for Mr. Lugar to announce that he will, in fact, again become an inhabitant of Indiana before Election Day, should he win the primary. This is no small thing," Mourdock said.

The Lugar campaign dimisses the issue as a non-controversy. Here’s the second Lugar ad, which implies Mourdock, a “desperate, 11-time candidate,” is just slinging mud:

“For a 36 year incumbent U.S. Senator to lash out at his primary opponent with negative ads this early after airing only one positive ad about his own record, is a clear sign of desperation," said Mourdock spokesman Chris Conner in a statement posted on the campaign's website. Conner rebuts the ad's claim that Mourdock "[failed] to show up to his taxpayer-funded job: "Since 2007, the State Treasurer’s Office has been represented by Treasurer Mourdock or a senior staff member at over 99% of the board meetings for which he or his designee serve as a member."

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