Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lugar's Decision Creates Seismic Shift for 2012 Senate Race


A few weeks ago, my friend Chris Jackson and I were driving into the parking lot at Chipotle in Avon, and we had both decided, given Senator Richard Lugar's recent voting record in the United States Senate, that he would not be pursuing re-election.

Fast forward to last week. Chris is in Michigan now attending law school, and Richard Lugar is now a candidate for re-election in 2012.

I have no problem with Lugar running again. On the face of it, Dems could do a lot worse. When you dig deeper, you see that much of Senator Lugar's so-called "moderate record" contains some pretty conservative votes. That may be Lugar's biggest problem: he is not conservative enough for his own voters.

That's why, as I said last week, I think Lugar will have a May 2012 Primary challenger. Many on the far right are upset with his support of Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in their nominations for the Supreme Court. Those forces on the far right will try to portray him as out of touch with his own conservative base, and they may be correct. Believe me, though, Lugar still has plenty of conservatism to go around.

Who would challenge him? I would assume perhaps some of the same characters that pursued the Senate seat in the 2010 May Primary on the Republican side. Perhaps some state-level legislators might give it a shot. Maybe a Mike Delph, who has been very critical of Lugar, may give it a run.

Knocking off Lugar is highly unlikely for a Republican. You might even see Democrats cross over and preserve the lesser of two evils there.

On the Democratic side, I think that a run is probably a long shot now at best. That doesn't mean that I think the Indiana Democratic Party shouldn't contest Lugar. That has actually happened before. I hope it doesn't happy again.

There are Democrats out there that I think could give Lugar a good shot. It's going to take a well-financed campaign and an energetic campaigner who can take on Lugar head on by pushing the idea of a new agenda and new leadership.

Lugar's beloved here, but he will be 80 as he runs for re-election. He's in, what seems like, excellent health. When sworn in for a prospective seventh term if re-elected, he would be about three months shy of his 81st birthday. Should the Republicans re-take control of the U.S. Senate in 2010, Lugar would become fourth in the Presidential Line of Succession as the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

All of these things say, he's old. Certainly, I don't think anyone will stand for an age attack. Age attacks, especially on someone as healthy and popular as Lugar, often backfire.

I don't know what the Senate race in 2012 will bring, but I think Lugar's re-election bid will likely make life a little less interesting for political observers.

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