I wonder what his strategy is. Orrin Hatch is so nervous about a tea-party primary challenge that he’s now inviting himself to TP town-hall meetings to gladhand people. Lugar, meanwhile, is practically daring them to bring it on.
Only one thing is certain, my friends: If he wins in the primary, he’s a lock to keynote RINOcon.
Among other criticisms, Tea Party activists have taken Lugar to task for supporting the new START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, claiming the U.S. is giving up too much and Russia is not giving up enough.
“I’ve been working systematically for 20 years going to Russia trying to help direct a situation in which we’re taking warheads off of missiles every day, destroying missiles that were aimed at us; destroying submarines that carried misslies up and down our coast,” said Lugar. “I’ve got to say ‘Get real’. I hear Tea Party or other people talking about they were against START. I said ‘Well, now, hang on here.'”…
The senator was also ready with a retort for those who’ve laid into him for confirming President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. Lugar said he looks at a nominee’s character and professional qualifications in order to avoid creating a polarizing atmosphere.
“I hope people sort of understand that because otherwise we polarize the Supreme Court business to a point that conservative justices offered by a conservative Republican president -who’ll be elected at some point- are going to have trouble,” said Lugar.
Note how, near the end of the clip, he refuses to rule out an independent run. Indiana has a “sore-loser law,” so he won’t be able to pull a Lieberman and run as an indie if he competes in the GOP primary and ends up losing. He’d have to pull out of the primary and turn independent beforehand, a la Charlie Crist. He probably couldn’t pull a Murkowski either and win via a write-in campaign: Granted, after 30+ years in the Senate, his name recognition in Indiana is sky-high, but Murky had the advantage of running in a state with a tiny electorate, making a critical mass of write-in votes easier to achieve. So presumably, if early polls show a tight primary shaping up, he’ll quit the party ASAP and recast himself as an independent in order to give the public time to get comfortable with the idea and make it seem less like he’s being opportunistic.
And … he’d probably win, no? A recent internal poll showed his favorable rating at 66/19. In his last Senate race in 2006, which ended up being a huge Democratic year, he won with 87 percent of the vote after the state Dems didn’t bother to put forward a candidate. He doesn’t have the disadvantage Bob Bennett had in Utah either, where Republican primary voters could rest easy knowing that whoever they nominated was a cinch to win the general. Obama won Indiana in 2008 and will be at the top of the ticket in 2012, which means Democrats surely will field a viable candidate this time in hopes of capitalizing on a GOP split between Lugar and the tea-party candidate. Under those circumstances, won’t most Indiana Republicans vote strategically and line up behind a guy they know and trust rather than risk a schism that turns the seat blue?