According to the blog of Wish-TV political guru, Jim Shella, Indiana's senior senator, Richard Lugar, has a poll that shows he has the highest favorable rating (66%) among Hoosier Republican politicians, including Governor Mitch Daniels (59%).
Shella writes, "Curiously, Lugar included potential primary challengers Richard Mourdock and Mike Delph in the poll. Mourdock is at 14% and Delph is at 7%."
There's nothing curious about including Mourdock and Delph. It's ingenious politics. You know who responds to polls? The "smart money crowd" (a/k/a lobbyists, interest groups, and party officials who don't want to get frozen out if they support a Lugar opponent and lose).
A well-known political maxim is that if you shoot at the king, you better kill him. Lugar is trying to show he's bullet-proof. And given that Lugar has an underwhelming $2.3 million in the bank with only two years to go, scaring the smart money into his column before one of his prospective opponents can get traction is critical.
I'm probably in the minority on this, but I think Lugar could be in jeopardy unless the GOP plays nice in 2012. In a general election? Without question, Lugar could still dominate.
But what if we see a GOP primary fight between Congressman Mike Pence and Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman? Pence would fuel a high-octane cultural conservative/Tea Party turnout, and Lugar's statesmanship, outspoken role in nuclear anti-proliferation (and castigation of his own party for not getting on board), and occasional kind word toward the President make him too internationalist and soft for the Pence constituency.
If such a showdown in the Guv's race were to materialize, and Lugar were to square off with only one primary opponent, he could be doomed. The "only one opponent" piece is crucial though. The Indiana GOP has already showed it was in the market for something new when it only gave Dan "Sugar" Coats thirty-nine percent of the vote. Had Marlin Stutzman not been in a four-way field, he'd be a senator, not a representative. Any more than one opponent, and Lugar is a shoe-in.
The key to Lugar's survivability will be his next two years of voting. If he doesn't placate the neocons and deficit hawks in his own party, they'll be eager to trade in for a newer, more idealogically-pure model. Lugar would be eighty in 2012.