Sen. Dick Lugar is calling upon voters in Indiana — anybody — to come out and vote for him in his Republican primary this Tuesday.
Earlier on Friday, a poll came out showing the longtime incumbent trailing his right-wing primary challenger, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, by a margin of 48%-38%.
At a press conference, the Indianapolis Star reports, Lugar made his appeal for Hoosiers of any partisan stripe to support him.
“Every person in Indiana who wants me to continue, every person wherever they might be at this point, I encourage them to come out,” he said. “Come out immediately, as fast as you can.”
He further described the importance of turnout to the primary: “I believe that right now if a majority of Hoosiers were to vote in an election, that is all Hoosiers regardless of party — Republicans, Democrats, independents, I would win.
“I want everybody in the state to vote for me on Tuesday. Everybody. I’m not asking anybody to cross over. I’m just saying positively ‘register your vote, because if you do not I may not be able to continue serving you. At this point, help.”
The presumptive Democratic nominee is Rep. Joe Donnelly — with some Dems hopeful that a Mourdock win in the primary would open up this seat for a pickup.
Lugar was first elected to the Senate way back in 1976, after having previously served as Mayor of Indianapolis, and after having run one unsuccessful Senate race in the Democratic wave year of 1974. He then defeated another Dem incumbent in 1976 by a landslide margin. He won a 54%-46% re-election in 1982, and in the 30 years since then he has never received less than 66% of the vote — indeed, in his last race in 2006, he didn’t have any Democratic opponent at all, wining by 87%-13% against a Libertarian candidate.
But this year, Mourdock is seeking to harness Tea Party ire against Lugar’s incumbency, and against a series of votes Lugar has taken over the years: For the TARP bailout, for the auto industry bailout, for President Obama’s Supreme Court appointees (which Lugar has said creates precedent for Democrats to vote for Republican appointees), for the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and others.
Lugar has also had to deal with challenges to his state residency: He lives mainly in northern Virginia, and has not owned a home in Indiana itself since 1977, the year after he was first elected to the Senate. The campaign has cited the Indiana constitution and the opinions of current and past state attorneys general to show that Lugar did not legally lose his residency when he left for Washington to serve the state as its senator decades ago. However, the campaign has also struggled with the appropriate public messaging — such as comparing his legal status to that of military service.