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Desperation time for Sen. Lugar

Last week, we noted that a poll conducted for the campaign of Richard Mourdock showed him leading Sen. Richard Lugar by five points in the race for the Republican nomination for the Indiana Senate seat Lugar has held since 1977. Lugar’s polling may well confirm that he is in trouble. Recently, his campaign has been flailing at Mourdock with an air of desperation.

Here is how the Indianapolis Star puts it:

[Lugar’s] efforts to paint tea party-backed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock as untrustworthy last week had all the markings of a desperate attempt to toss anything and everything at Mourdock to see what might stick less than two weeks before the vote that could end Lugar’s political career.

First came the Lugar campaign’s cryptic promise of “critical” new information about Mourdock that would prove he wasn’t a conservative. Then came the ballyhooed news conference where Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher and Lugar supporter Larry MacIntyre pointed to a 1992 candidate questionnaire on which Mourdock supported the “Fairness Doctrine” and declined to say whether he would sanction illegal immigrants.

They also rolled out a litany of previous complaints they have outlined in attack ads that have run across the state since March.

Even with a room packed with print and broadcast reporters, the alleged game-changer got little play beyond some tweets and blog posts. The reaction? Nothing to see here. Move along.

The futility of attempting to portray Mourdock as the tepid conservative in the race may finally have become apparent to the Lugar campaign. According to the Indy Star, he is now shifting back to a more positive message, including spots on his behalf by John McCain (unlikely to move the needle) and Gov. Mitch Daniels (may help).

Meanwhile, both candidates have been asked whether they will endorse their opponent if the opponent wins the primary. Mourdock said he would. Lugar has thus far been unwilling to make that commitment.

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