INDIANAPOLIS (WHAS11) -- Richard Lugar is a US Senate legend and he’s the longest serving senator in Indiana history and Democrats didn't even bother running a candidate against him six years ago.
But now Richard Lugar is in the fight of his political life against a fellow Republican.
It's the Tea Party versus the Republican establishment, a battle for the soul of the GOP.
And caught in the crosshairs is statesman Richard Lugar. Will his experience be enough to fend off State Treasurer Richard Mourdock? He says Lugar is too cozy with Democrats and the Obama administration?
One week ago, a survey showed Richard Lugar clinging to a narrow lead. Then three days ago, as Lugar was casting his absentee ballot, another poll showed Richard Mourdock surging to a 10 point lead.
“My reaction is a vigorous get out the vote and we're working with phone banks,” Lugar said. “I think the largest operation of this sort ever; to alert Hoosiers of the possibilities, to encourage them to vote and try to assist them in voting.”
Lugar says if all Hoosiers, regardless of party, were to vote, he would win.
It is an open primary in Indiana, meaning that anyone can vote in the Republican primary.
Challenger Richard Mourdock, the two term state treasurer, is blasting Lugar for trying to lure Democrats to hijack the Republican primary.
Mourdock says Lugar's votes do not truly represent Republican values.
“Mr Lugar's record over the last few years, he's not been in the conservative camp in the support of some very liberal Supreme Court justices that's been troubling to me,” Mourdock said. “And I don't think he's been nearly aggressive enough in trying to reduce our incredible deficit and our ever growing national debt.”
Mourdock clearly represents different priorities than Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. U of L Political Science Professor Jasmine Farrier points to 1991, when Lugar and Democrat Sam Nunn became the bi-partisan architects of the nuclear disarmament of the Soviet Union.
“That is governing. That is not necessarily something that you can campaign on 20 years later,” Farrier said.
Twenty years later, Lugar's experience, six terms in Washington, is a double edged sword and some voters are calling for change.
“Need somebody else,” Jesse Jackson, Hoosier voter, said. “He's been there long enough.”
“The world has changed and economic insecurity and the concept of career politicians have come together to form the Tea Party movement,” Farrier said.
Lugar questions Mourdock's experience while Mourdock question's Lugar's convictions.
“I don't believe Americans are calling for compromise. They are calling for principle,” Mourdock said.
“There's a saying my way or the highway - you're going to get the high way,” Lugar said.
While Lugar may be counting on Independents and Democrats to cast votes in the Republican primary, it may be tough to recruit southern Indiana Democrats who are deciding a nominee on Tuesday to face Republican Congressman Todd Young in fall.
The five democrats who are on the ballot Tuesday are:
Former US Military Commander Jonathan George
Former New Albany Housing Official John Miller
Military Veteran John Tilford
Former Miss Indiana Shelli Yoder
Former Lee Hamilton Aide Robert Winningham