Four years ago, Republican Sen. Richard Lugar was considered so unbeatable that Democrats didn't bother to field a candidate against him.Schneider goes on to mention two potential primary challengers to Lugar, including State Senator Mike Delph and Richard Mourdock, although neither has committed themselves to running just yet. Lugar will turn 80 in 2012 when he seeks another six years after serving thirty-six years already. Whether you like Lugar or not, hasn't he reached the age when one should be considering retirement? You've been rejected by your fellow Republican colleagues for a leadership position on several occasions. Your presidential campaign went nowhere. And it probably doesn't help your case when the New York Times takes to defending you in its news pages against attacks from within your own party. You're now coming across as a bit of an embittered guy who is more interested in being a thorn in the side of people within your own party than actually getting anything accomplished for the common good.
Now, he's facing the likelihood of a challenge from within his own party.
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 same day, a smaller group of tea party activists and conservatives from across the state calling themselves Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, met in Fishers to begin organizing a challenge. They plan to meet again Jan. 22 in a much larger public forum to discuss how to coalesce around one alternative to Lugar.
Monica Boyer, the 35-year-old organizer of the Kosciusko Silent No More tea party group, was among those at Saturday's meeting. She wasn't even born when Lugar first went to the Senate. And he already was a veteran there when she began casting her ballots for him.
No more, she said.
"I'm a die-hard Republican," Boyer said, "and I will never pull the lever for Richard Lugar again."
Lugar's situation reminds me of that of former Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was once the darling of the Right. In later years, the public's perception of him waned, particularly after a damning investigative series by the Pulliam-owned Arizona Republic raised questions about his ties to organized crime figures. When Ronald Reagan and the Republicans were sweeping to power in 1980, Goldwater struggled to win re-election in the closest race he ever faced against a little-known Democratic opponent in a Republican state. He spent his last six years in the Senate poking fingers in the eyes of President Reagan and the religious right before riding off into the sunset. Perhaps Lugar has reached a point where he should retire from the Senate gracefully rather than set off a fight within his own party. Indiana has elected plenty of Democrats to the Senate in the past. And it's doubtful Democrats will give him another pass as they've done in past elections.