Lugar Criticized by Indiana’s Left and Right

The Republican U.S. senator getting the most compliments from Democrats is likely Dick Lugar of Indiana. Lugar's moderate approach and voting record has won him quite a lot of Democratic support.

In Lugar's last race in 2006, the Indiana Democratic Party didn't even put up a candidate to run against the long-time GOP incumbent.

At the time, Democratic state party chairman Dan Parker said, "Richard Lugar is beloved not only by Republicans, but by Independents and Democrats."

When Evan Bayh announced last year he would not seek re-election to his Senate seat, Bayh said of his fellow Indiana Senator, "I particularly value my relationship with Senator Dick Lugar and have often felt that if all senators could have the cooperative relationship we enjoy, the institution would be a better place."

But lately, that Democratic "love" for Lugar back in Hoosier country has faded a bit.

Yesterday, Chairman Parker chided Lugar's vote to repeal the landmark federal healthcare act.In an e-mail news release, Parker noted "the state has embraced Lugar's brand" because his ability to work toward compromise on issues and his rational thinking.

Parker went on, saying, "For the sake of our state, I hope Richard Lugar sticks to the principles that have won him so many elections - and a place in the hearts of those in the heartland. Indiana deserves leadership that reflects hard-working Hoosier values, not pandering to a group of fringe activists who are angry at America."

Those activists who Parker refers to are Indiana's network of Tea Party organizations, most of which have banded together to defeat Lugar.

Citing Lugar's votes in favor of the DREAM Act on immigration reform, the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia and confirmation votes for Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, a coalition of 70-Tea Party groups have formed an anti-Lugar coalition.

This group, Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate, vows to recruit and unite behind a challenger in the 2012 GOP primary. Lugar, months ago, announced he would seek a seventh term in the Senate.

Lugar is clearly the favorite and the primary is still 15-months away. Still, he faces potentially his stiffest reelection challenge in decades, with criticism now being leveled at him from the political right and left.

There is still time for Lugar to court centrist Indiana Democrats.

If Lugar continues his usual moderate political track, Parker says, "We will continue to praise (Lugar)."

But it is that middle-ground that Lugar's staked out which has made him a target of Indiana's Tea Party coalition whose mission is to send Lugar into retirement.