Yes, at a Republican. At a moderate Republican, which according to Tea Party and Republican Purity Standards Richard G. Lugar is not a Republican at all, despite his dedicated 34-years of service in Congress on behalf of the Republican Party.
Not that Lugar appears to mind. The Hill reports he “is sitting on a warchest of $2.3 million and he says it’s growing by the week ahead of what’s expected to be a tough primary challenge from the right in 2012″ and in an interview with U.S. News & World Report, he said,
“I think there are a great number of Americans, not just in Indiana, who are genuinely angry about how things have turned out for them. Sometimes they are unemployed or they have family members who have been unemployed or they are in situations in which they feel a heavy governmental restriction of their activities. In essence, they are unhappy about life in America and they want to express themselves.”
Then the senator turned his attention to Tea Party rhetoric, which takes the form of: “‘We want this or that stopped’ or ‘there is spending, big government’ — these are all, we would say, sort of large cliché titles, but they are not able to articulate all the specifics.”
As the Huffington Post reports, Lugar is unpopular because of his moderate stance:
A longtime nuclear non-proliferation advocate, Lugar took more heat from the right over his support for the ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty, which was characterized by the Tea Party as a crippling concession to Russia. He also notoriously opposed the recent Republican attempt to place a moratorium on earmarks, and had fielded heavy criticism in the past for his votes in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program and for the confirmations of Obama Supreme Court nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
He also, as Huffington Post reminds us, “Lugar also recently voiced support for a renewed assault weapons ban.”
As a consequence, an assortment of Tea Party groups signed a letter last week demanding that Lugar retire. If he does not do as he is told by these demagogues they will oppose him in the primaries, possibly with Indiana state Sen. Mike Delph and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Both Politico and the New York Times see him as vulnerable, the former saying that Tea Party candidates are already “lining up to oppose him, and are poised to use his friendship with Obama, his lobbying on behalf of START, his support for a repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and his opposition to a ban on earmarks as issues.” The Times say that “Now, in the heat of the post-primary lame-duck Congressional session, he is defying his party on an earmark ban, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, a military spending authorization bill and an arms control treaty with Russia.”
Recently, more moderate conservatives have begun to speak out about the extremist tack Tea Partiers have taken. Of Lugar’s situation former GOP Sen. John Danforth says, “If Dick Lugar, having served five terms in the US Senate and being the most respected person in the Senate and the leading authority on foreign policy, is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.”
Both Lugar and Danforth have gauged the Tea Party accurately. They have gone so far that they are beyond redemption and they don’t stand for anything specific, just fear and anger. It should be noted here that Indiana went with Obama in ’08 and the Tea Party did not do well here in ’10.
That doesn’t daunt the Tea Party, of course, which has been feeling particularly full of itself since the 2010 elections (despite some dramatic defeats) and Indiana Tea Party activist Monica Boyer says that she met with Lugar in December and that left her determined to oppose him come the 2012 primaries: “He basically told us how it was. There was no discussion and he didn’t hear us. From that time on, it was game on.”
“I’m sure there are some groups that will do their own thing, but a majority have agreed that there has to be just one candidate [against Lugar].” She says she is not fazed by Lugar’s fundraising: “We have the enthusiasm and the boots on the ground, so we’re not intimidated by his money.”
That enthusiasm didn’t amount to much in 2010 and removing Lugar, who is an Indiana icon, will be no easy task.
Photo from lugar.senate.gov/