But that may change in 2012. This weekend, 50 tea party groups are planning to meet in Tipton, Ind., to try to coalesce around a single candidate to oppose Senator Lugar. He sailed to reelection in 2006 with no Democratic opponent, winning 87 percent of the general election vote.
What has altered the political climate for this six-term Senate veteran? Speaking at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters on Tuesday, Lugar said, “[T]here are a great number of Americans, not just in Indiana, who are genuinely angry about how things have turned out for them.”
He added that “the tea party people reflect a good number of people who are unhappy about a lot of things, including myself – and any office holder, for that matter.”
The opposition's level of political experience varies. "A good number of the people that I see coming along in the tea party movement are not persons who have been politically active, although some have been in the past, unsuccessfully. Some are taking advantage of this new situation to refurbish campaigns that have not worked very well in the past," Lugar said. "But a lot of the people with whom I visit just simply say, 'We want to be heard.'”
Early polling data indicates that there will be a challenge for Lugar, whose votes angered elements of the party’s base. For example, at the end of the 2010 lame duck session, Lugar was instrumental in lining up Republican votes to help pass the START arms control treaty, despite opposition to the treaty by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Senator Lugar's internal polling from November 2010 showed him holding a 66 percent approval and 17 percent disapproval rating with the general public in Indiana. When poll results focused on voters within the GOP, though, he faced “a much more competitive situation, with many more questions asked.”