Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is taking the steps to formally launch a primary challenge against six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in the coming weeks, according to multiple Republicans familiar with his thinking.In other news, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee struck out at Lugar today for his vote in favor of repealing Obamacare. A press release from the committee late this afternoon reads:
Mourdock, a former county commissioner who won the treasurer's office in 2006, has been solidifying his plans by reaching out to campaign operatives and vendors and was in Washington this week to touch base with a coterie of players who could aid his insurgent bid.
"Mourdock is meeting folks around town. He was here yesterday. I’m expecting a public announcement very soon," one conservative operative told POLITICO.
Offered another GOP player, "I understand Mourdock is planning to jump into the race soon. Sounded like weeks, not days."
Inquiries to Mourdock's offices were not immediately returned.
Mourdock's entrance into the Indiana Senate race would mark only the second official primary challenge to a Senate incumbent of the 2012 cycle. Scott D'Amboise, a former town selectman in Maine, announced his campaign against Sen. Olympia Snowe last year but has yet to file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.
During his visit to D.C., Mourdock's itinerary included a meeting with South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who developed a reputation as a crowning conservative king-maker during the 2010 cycle.
But DeMint has publicly promised not to oppose any sitting Republican incumbents this cycle -- an olive branch extended to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which privately seethed at DeMint's endorsements of alternative candidates throughout last year.
Indiana tea party leaders have been meeting with the goal of uniting around a single candidate to take on Lugar, but one operative close to the discussions acknowledged "we aren't there just yet."
Lugar, whose only opposition in 2006 was a nominal Libertarian challenger, hasn't drawn a primary opponent since his first contest in 1976.
But his votes to ratify the START Treaty and confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court as well as support for a bill to allow children of illegal immigrants to attain a pathway to citizenship have riled those on the right.
Mourdock and state Sen. Mike Delph are the two most frequently mentioned viable GOP opponents. But it's unclear how Mourdock's likely entry into the race in February will impact Delph's decision.
"I frankly think the race is between he and Mike Delph," said a conservative operative monitoring the developments in the Hoosier State.
For his part, Lugar appears confident at his chances for a seventh term, saying he's preparing for a primary fight with "vigorous fundraising and campaigning."
The Senate's most senior Republican has stockpiled a $2.3 million warchest and still boasts one of the highest approval ratings in the state.
That's just another reason why there's pressure on the tea party — and Mourdock — to move swiftly against one of the upper chamber's most veteran members.
United States Senator Richard Lugar today proved his loyalty to the special interests in Washington by siding with the insurance industry over the people of Indiana. In a strict party-line vote, Lugar voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. If Lugar had been successful, 820,000 Indiana residents would lose access to affordable health care; the cost of prescription drug costs would grow for 958,000 Indiana seniors; 84,372 Indiana small businesses would lose tax credits; and appalling insurance practices like denial based on pre-existing conditions would be reinstated.The press release also hit Lugar for accepting $460,000 in campaign contributions from insurance interests throughout his career in the Senate. The DSCC's hit on Lugar is in sharp contrast to the supportive statements Hoosier Democratic leaders have been making as of late defending Lugar against conservative critics within his own party.
“Republicans who want to take away their constituents’ health care do so at their peril,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director Eric Schultz. “If there ever was a time for Richard Lugar to demonstrate his independence, it would have been today. Instead, he turned his back on Hoosiers in favor of giving the insurance companies free reign again. While Lugar can enjoy the federal government’s health care plan for himself, he now has to look at the people of Indiana and explain why quality, affordable health care was good enough for him but not for them.”