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Tea Party Tally

Tea party targets Sen. Richard Lugar: Can moderate Republicans survive?

Tea party activists in Indiana will work to unseat 36-year Senate veteran Richard Lugar, a centrist, in an 'eat your own' gambit that could shape the direction of the Republican party.

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On the other hand, while Mourdock's fundraising has been anemic, Lugar's war chest is huge and he counts among his political supporters popular Gov. Mitch Daniels, his political protégé.

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The Tea Party Express's influence on 2010 Senate races was mixed: The California-based group backed both winners like Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah and ultimate electoral losers like Nevada's Sharron Angle and Delaware's Christine O'Donnell.

"This is no news for the campaign that an outside-of-Indiana organization would like to come in and influence what the voters of Indiana think, and should think," Lugar's political director David Willkie told CNN Wednesday in response to announcement of the Tea Party Express campaign.

Despite his name recognition and seniority, Lugar does have political weaknesses, especially given the current antiestablishment mood in the country, with Congress seeing record low approval ratings. Anti-Washington sentiments are so strong that a Lugar spokesman recently said that even "the dog catcher" stands a chance at defeating an incumbent seen as the establishment candidate.

Tea party activists have several beefs with Lugar:

  • His support of President Obama's Supreme Court nominees.
  • His support of the 2008 TARP bailout, his vote to renew the START treaty with Russia.
  • His refusal to back an amendment that would have made it easier for Americans to carry concealed weapons.
  • His co-sponsorship of the failed DREAM Act, which aimed to create a path to legal residency for students who illegally came to the US as children.
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