Six-term incumbent Indiana Senator Dick Lugar (R) is in deep political trouble.
In a bi-partisan Bipartisan Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll, Lugar led his Republican challenger, state treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) by only 42% to 35%, with 23% of the voters undecided.
For an incumbent to be so far below the magic 50% number only a month before the May 8 primary suggests how much trouble Lugar is in. Undecided voters in a contest with a well-known incumbent tend to go to the challenger.
Moreover, Lugar has been beset by problems that might not seem large in the grand scheme of things but hurt an incumbent up for re-election. He has not owned a home in Indiana for years, and initially was denied his right to vote in the primary (subsequently modified).
Lugar was recently forced to repay Treasury almost $15,000 for improperly billed hotel stays in the state.
Conservative groups are spending heavily to defeat Lugar, once Richard Nixon’s favorite Mayor.
The good news for Democrats is if Mourdock wins the primary, he will be locked into a dead-even primary against Democratic Representative Joe Donnelly. Donnelly entered the contest both because he received a bad district in the state’s redistricting effort and in the hope that Lugar would lose his primary.
The same poll showing Lugar in trouble also had Mourdock and Donnelly even with 35% of the vote. Lugar, according to the poll, is ahead of Donnelly 50%-29%.
In 2010, Republicans lost at least three Senate seats they could have won had they not nominated a far-right tea party candidate. History may be repeated in Indiana.