Sen. Richard Lugar's (R-IN) heated primary battle with State Treasurer Richard Mourdock veered into the realm of national security this week, and Lugar's campaign is trying to take advantage.
Lugar's campaign sent out a statement Tuesday criticizing Mourdock for telling the Times of Northwest Indiana editorial board that he would cut defense spending, perhaps by consolidating two or more of the military service branches together.
"There's always going to be a lot of duplication. We look today at the historical setup of Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard -- there's a lot of duplication and bureaucracy right there. In the 21st century, is that necessary? I'm not sure that it is," Mourdock said.
"Key Question for Richard Mourdock: Which military branch do you think is no longer necessary in the 21st century -- the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard?" Lugar's campaign asked in the statement.
The statement is only the latest attempt by Lugar's camp to paint Mourdock as a neophyte and an isolationist on national security and foreign policy. Other examples Lugar's campaign has been pointing to in recent weeks include a 1992 Chicago Tribune report which said, "Mourdock, 41, a geologist, has been likened to Ross Perot by the local press. He wants to cut the deficit, institute a budget freeze and slash U.S. troop levels overseas." (Emphasis Lugar's.)
That same year, the Bloomington Herald-Times reported, "Mourdock said the nation should focus more of its resources on education and cease acting as the world's ‘911' service."
In another example, in a 1992 candidate questionnaire printed by The Message, an Evansville weekly, Mourdock was asked, "Do you favor or oppose the following initiatives: A Comprehensive test ban?" Mourdock responded "No Position."
"These comments serve as a strong reminder to Hoosiers of the enormous stature gap that exists between Dick Lugar and Richard Mourdock when it comes to critical issues like defense and national security," Lugar campaign spokesperson Andy Fisher told The Cable. "The fact that Mourdock would make a statement like this while our country is at war should give every Hoosier pause," he said, referring to Mourdock's remarks about the military and Coast Guard.
The polls for the upcoming primary are contradictory. An April 6 Howey/DePauw poll had Lugar up 42 to 35 percent over Mourdock. On April 26, Mourdouk's camp touted a new poll that showed its candidate up 44 to 39 percent, but that poll was conducted by a group supporting Mourdouk.
With the primary only one week away, both sides are looking for any advantage. And although Lugar, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been skeptical of U.S. intervention in places like Syria, he is positioning to Mourdock's right on international affairs.
Requests for comment to the Mourdock campaign were not returned.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.