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Debt Debate Shades Indiana Sen. Lugar’s Fight for Reelection

Lugar [dot] Senate [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- Ending the debt ceiling stalemate in Washington will require some bipartisanship.  Neither side has the votes to pass their plan without help from the other party before an Aug. 2 deadline. But it has become politically perilous to work across the aisle. Just ask Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, who is the longest-serving federal lawmaker in Indiana history, and who is in the fight of his political life.

In Indiana, state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who’s hoping to unseat 35-year incumbent Lugar, is hoping to use the gridlock to his advantage.

Mourdock is zeroing in on Lugar’s relationship with President Obama, which Mourdock calls “a burr in the saddle of every Republican paying attention.”  Mourdock is also accusing Lugar of not acting quickly enough to back the conservative cut, cap and balance proposal that passed the House, but failed in the Senate last week.

“I was stunned that he was the last of the Republican Senators to get on board with the cut, cap and balance,” Mourdock told ABC News.  “The day before it went to Harry Reid, Lugar suddenly said, ‘Yeah, me too’ and jumped on to co-sponsor.”

Mourdock added that Lugar has voted to raise the debt ceiling in the past, something the Tea Party-supported candidate hopes will work to his advantage with conservatives.  He says that on the campaign trail he constantly meets voters who say they respect the 79-year-old-Senator, but that “it’s time” for a change.

The Lugar camp says it’s just not true that the Senator was late to sign on to cut, cap and balance, and that Lugar has been involved throughout the year on spending issues.  Lugar’s spokesperson for his Senate office, Andy Fisher, stressed that the Senator didn’t just back the bill but added his name to the list of co-sponsors.

“That’s a full endorsement,” Fisher told ABC News.

Fisher added that Lugar is co-sponsoring Sen. Pat Toomey’s “Full Faith and Credit Act,” which will ensure payments are made to Social Security recipients, the military, and interest on the national debt if the government does go into default.

Brian Howey, author of Howey Politics Indiana, says until the outcome of the debt ceiling deal is known,  it’s too early to know how the debate could affect this campaign.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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