Richard Lugar loss could open Senate seat to Democrats

Sen. Richard G. Lugar talks with Joe Purichia before voting in Greenwood, Ind.
(Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON -- One of the Democrats’ top Senate campaign strategists said a tea party victory over Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar in Indiana’s primary would present an opening for Democrats to take the seat this fall.

The outlook from Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) reflected the growing enthusiasm among Democrats over Tuesday’s vote in Indiana, where Lugar, the veteran GOP senator, is in the fight of his political life against the state’s two-term treasurer, Richard Mourdock, a tea party favorite.

“If Mr. Mourdock emerges in the Indiana primary, it’s only going to give Democrats another pickup opportunity,” said Schumer, who led his party to the Senate majority in past election cycles. “The more the Republicans embrace the tea party agenda and its candidates, the more they damage their chances in November.”

The Indiana Senate primary is among the most watched elections Tuesday, and Lugar, who has prided himself on rarely missing a vote in the Senate, was absent from the chamber as both candidates campaigned toward the finish line, with a serious get-out-the-vote effort in the Hoosier state.

Republicans have dismissed such predictions from Democrats as overblown, saying Mourdock is a public official in a state that leans heavily Republican and is unlikely to choose a Democrat as its next senator.


“For the Democrats’ sake, I hope no one is putting any money on Sen. Schumer’s predictions these days,” said Brian Walsh, communications director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

“Two years ago, Senator Schumer predicted Democrats would win in Indiana even after Evan Bayh’s retirement, while also predicting that anyone voting against ‘Obamacare’ would pay a price on election day,” Walsh said, referring to the open Senate election in 2010 and President Obama’s new healthcare law, which passed without Republican support. “Six months later, Democrat Brad Ellsworth lost the Indiana Senate race by 15 points and the Democrats lost seven seats overall.”

Republicans need to pick up four new seats this fall to take control of the Senate majority, and they do not believe Mourdock’s election would change that calculus.

The GOP is already preparing its attack on Rep. Joe Donnelly, a three-term congressman from the South Bend area, and the likely Democratic challenger in November.

Original source: Richard Lugar loss could open Senate seat to Democrats