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Tea party challenge puts Sen. Richard Lugar in the fight of his political life

Sen. Richard Lugar is a six-term incumbent, highly regarded for his work on national security issues. But tea party-backed challenger Richard Mourdock says Lugar has lost touch with his Indiana constituents. In the run-up to Tuesday's GOP primary, Mourdock leads in the polls.

By Staff writer / May 6, 2012

GOP Senate primary candidate Richard Mourdock prays during a rally held for him, Saturday, May 5, 2012, at Veterans Plaza in Indianapolis. FreedomWorks, a national tea party group, was responsible for the rally.

Danese Kenon/The Indianapolis Star/AP

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Sen. Richard Lugar has many fans in Washington and abroad.

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President Obama’s advantage on national security marks the first time in decades a Democratic candidate has had such an edge. DC Decoder’s Liz Marlantes explains.

The six-term Republican from Indiana – Eagle Scout, Rhodes scholar, US Navy veteran, former mayor of Indianapolis – also seems to represent the values all Hoosiers are proud of. He’s conservative without making a fetish of it, willing to work with Democrats when necessary, successfully tackling some of the toughest issues – especially reductions in the world’s arsenal of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

But my, how things have changed, and Senator Lugar now finds himself in the political fight of his life.

How much do you know about the Tea Party? A quiz.

Lugar has handily won every election since he ousted incumbent Democrat Vance Hartke in 1976. Last time around, Democrats didn’t even challenge his reelection (which he won with 87 percent of the vote).

What’s happened in the intervening years? The tea party movement. And like other Republicans tarred with the brush of perceived moderation, Lugar – an energetic 80 year-old – could find himself involuntarily retired this Tuesday when Indiana holds it primary election.

Lugar’s GOP primary opponent is state treasurer Richard Mourdock.

Mr. Mourdock has racked up important conservative group endorsements, including the Club for Growth, Americans for Legal Immigration, the Family Research Council, Gun Owners of America, Indiana Right to Life, FreedomWorks, Citizens United, and the Tea Party Express. Tea party heroes Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain are backing him, as well as many Republican State Central Committee members and GOP County Chairs.

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