Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock is headed for a comfortable primary win over veteran Sen. Dick Lugar, according to a new poll released on Friday just four days before ballots open.
The Howey/DePauw poll gave Mourdock a 10 percentage point lead and represents a major blow for Lugar, who earlier this week was two points up in a survey by a group with ties to his campaign.
Voters go to the ballots on Tuesday to decide which man will have the right to take on Democrat Rep. Joe Donnelly in November’s Senate election.
The battle between Mourdock, who has won endorsements from conservative figures including Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Grover Norquist , and the six-term incumbent has gotten increasingly bitter in the weeks running up to the poll. Lugar has the backing of popular Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
The poll among 700 likely voters was conducted on Monday and Tuesday by Republican pollster Christine Matthews and Democrat Fred Yang. It gave Mourdock a 48 to 38 percent lead.
It showed a massive swing to Mourdock, who was down seven points to Lugar when Howey/DePauw last polled the state in late March.
The pollsters say that Lugar is likely to be defeated mainly because voters feel that 36 years is long enough for anyone to be in office.
“While the tea party and other national groups got into this race because of what they consider to be Lugar's liberal transgressions, it appears that a bigger issue for GOP primary voters is simply his longevity," said Matthews.
Yang pointed out that voters were evenly split on the question of which man would be the more effective in Congress. “To think that, after a much-praised political career that started in 1967 and a Senate career that started in 1977, Richard Lugar would be tied on ‘effectiveness’ probably is the most telling result of this campaign,” he said.
Yang said the writing was probably on the wall from the start of the campaign when Lugar, 80, decided to run and Mourdock soon emerged as his only challenger. He said he conducted a poll more than a year ago that Hoosiers wanted a change by a 2 to 1 majority.
Brian Howey of Howey/DePauw said that despite Lugar’s long tenure, Indiana has a history of throwing out politicians who have outstayed their welcome. “Over the past decade, Hoosier voters have had a vivid propensity to change parties, throw out incumbents, including powerful, iconic ones,” Howey said.
“This includes a sitting governor, two of the most powerful legislators in state history in Republican primaries, five sitting U.S. Congressmen, the East Chicago mayor who led the Lake County Democratic machine, and in the 2007 municipal elections, 40 percent of incumbent mayors.”
He said the race between the candidates has essentially become a referendum on Lugar. “This time tenure and legacy appears to have become a millstone.”
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