The campaign strategy of Indiana GOP Sen. Richard Lugar as he seeks to fend off the strong primary challenge of state Treasurer Richard Mourdock Tuesday looks like a losing one, political strategists and pundits say.
They tell Politico
that the six-term senator is out of touch with the day’s pressing issues, playing up his former chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when voters are most concerned about jobs and the economy. Lugar’s shifting messages and failure to address Mourdock in public appearance also is hurting him.
“His team approached it like it was a regular, circa-1995 environment,” a Senate campaign strategist told Politico. “Ignore your opponent. If it gets close, you smack. But when he finally engaged, it looked desperate.”
Recent poll results have been desultory for Lugar, with the latest survey from Howey/DePauw showing Lugar trailing 48 percent to 38 percent. The 80-year-old incumbent almost sounded resigned to defeat when he said in reaction to those numbers last week that “the press came . . . to have sort of a mourning or an obituary.”
Lugar’s last-minute strategy smacks of desperation. “We’re asking for independents. We’re asking for Democrats. We’re asking for unknowns. All of the above, everybody,” he said. That’s not exactly a show of confidence that the senator can gain Republican votes.
Lugar’s strategy was too weak from the get-go, observers say. “You need to be prepared to decapitate someone as soon as possible. Follow the John McCain model, not the Bob Bennett model,” a Senate race strategist told Politico.
The strategist was referring to the lukewarm campaign run by Republican Sen. Bob Bennett who lost his seat in Utah’s primary two years ago and to the aggressive tactics of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who successfully fought off a primary challenge at the same time.
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