Indiana Republican senator Dick Lugar voted against the earmark ban today, much to the frustration of conservatives. He appears to be sowing the seeds of a serious primary challenge, if conservative Indianans can find the right candidate.
The Indianapolis Star lays out how unusual these circumstances are:
Tea party activists and other social conservatives are actively searching for a candidate around whom they can unite to beat Lugar in the 2012 primary election.
How remarkable is that? Lugar hasn’t had a primary opponent since “Happy Days” ruled the TV ratings and “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” topped the charts. That was 1976 — the year Lugar first went to the Senate.
But dissatisfaction — and even downright anger — has been building among some conservatives. They watched in dismay earlier this year when Lugar voted to confirm liberal Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. This month, they were at odds with Lugar when he defended congressional earmarks; backed a bill to help some illegal immigrants who came here as children earn a path to citizenship; and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to push for a new nuclear treaty with Russia.
“He’s bombarded us” in the past couple of weeks with reasons to oust him, said Diane Hubbard, an Indianapolis Tea Party organizer who was among 65 people who protested Lugar’s co-sponsorship of the immigration bill — called the DREAM Act — outside his Indianapolis office Saturday.
The paper notes that in late October, Lugar commissioned a poll of 800 registered Indiana voters to gauge their view of him, as well as 15 other politicians. The list included state treasurer Richard Mourdock and state senator Mike Delph (R., Carmel), who have been mentioned as potential challengers to Lugar. The numbers are ominous, at least for now:
The poll, taken by American Viewpoint and with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, found that Lugar is viewed favorably by 66 percent of Hoosiers, with only 19 percent having an unfavorable view. Mourdock — whose name was recognized by only 49 percent of those polled — was viewed favorably by 14 percent and unfavorably by 9 percent. Delph, a familiar name to only 30 percent, was viewed favorably by 7 percent and unfavorably by 2 percent.
Of course, an October 2008 poll matching up Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio probably would have been a Crist landslide.