Both Republican candidates reacted Friday to a possible upset in the making in Indiana's biggest Primary race. A new Howey Politics/DePauw University poll shows six-term incumbent Sen. Richard Lugar well behind his challenger in the U.S. Senate race.
The poll shows Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock with a 10 percentage point lead over Lugar. About six weeks ago a poll by the same group had Lugar leading by 7 points. Mourdock is the tea party favorite facing Lugar, who's been in the Senate for 36 years.
Four days before the Primary, the poll heated up an already contentious race.
“Mr. Mourdock is simply unqualified to handle the complex situations in our world today - foreign policy or complex economic problems,” Lugar told reporters at his campaign headquarters in Indianapolis Friday morning.
“That’s sad to hear,” Mourdock said in a sit-down interview with WSBT. “I have great respect for Mr. Lugar but he's acting like a person who's been in office 36 years and has a sense of entitlement to office and that's not the way our system works.”
Neither candidate said the new numbers surprised them.
“I’ve been feeling that [was the case] for some time, but we take nothing for granted,” Mourdock said.
Lugar said he accepts the fact that the Howey poll indicates that a great number of negatives have built up – many of them in the last week or ten days.
A graph on TalkingPointsMemo.com shows Mourdock’s slow but steady climb in several polls over the past three months. In February, Lugar held a 23 point lead over Mourdock, according to a poll sponsored by the Lugar for Senate group. Over time though, the margin narrows until the polls put Mourdock ahead of Lugar in mid-April.
“Obviously it’s going to be a very competitive, very close election. You know, I think Senator Lugar is in the fight of his life,” said Second District Congressman Joe Donnelly.
The winner of the Republican Primary will face Donnelly, a Democrat, in November’s general election. Many political experts have said Donnelly has a better chance of defeating Mourdock in the U.S. Senate race.
Donnelly said he does not have a preference on who he faces in November.
Brian Howey, from Howey Politics told WSBT Radio Friday that Lugar's age is one big factor that seems to be driving poll numbers right now, but Lugar said his age is not important. Instead, he pointed to his knowledge and experience. Lugar just turned 80 last month. His opponent, Richard Murdock, is 60.