Sen. Dick Lugar, the Indiana Republican who is constantly irritating conservatives, officially has a primary challenger, the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette reports:
Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock indicated Saturday he will challenge Lugar in the 2012 Republican primary election, according to the Journal & Courier in Lafayette.
“We are very excited; we feel like it’s game-on now,” Monica Boyer, co-founder of Kosciusko County Silent No More, a tea party group based in Warsaw, said Sunday in an interview with The Journal Gazette.
About 180 tea party activists met last month in Tipton County to begin organizing a challenge to Lugar, who plans to seek a seventh six-year term next year.
Mourdock made his name during the Chrysler bailout, when he sued to block the administration's bankruptcy plan for the failed automaker, which involved a sweet deal for Big Labor and a raw deal for other investors, which included the Indiana state employees' pension plan.
This is no surprise -- Hatch was ready for it, and conservatives in the state have been gearing up for it. I wrote in my column late last year that the prospect of a Tea Party challenge hasn't visibly affected Lugar's voting record.
A few things to watch in this primary:
1) Indiana conservatives I spoke with and Beltway ones, too, told me that Mourdock isn't the strongest candidate. One Indiana Republican said Mourdock is sort of being pushed to run because, on paper he makes sense: he's a statewide elected official, conservative, not in cycle (he's up for reelection in 2014), and his role in battling Obama's gangster government regarding Chrysler makes him a Tea Party figure. There's more enthusiasm about State Sen. Mike Delph, who is openly considering a run.
2) There are no runoffs in Indiana, and so a divided conservative primary could save Lugar, just as it saved establishment candidate Dan Coats, who carried the 2010 primary with 39 percent while the two conservatives combined for 51 percent.
3) Lugar can marshall an impressive fundraising and campaign army. Any insurgent will rely on outside money -- like from the Club for Growth or Tea Party groups.
[h/t to Jim Geraghty at NRO.]