It has been a bad week for Dick Lugar:

But it just got worse.

A critical part of Lugar’s campaign narrative is the scare tactic that if Richard Mourdock is the nominee, the seat may be lost to Democrats.  I’ve addressed that argument before, pointing out that Democrat Joe Donnelly is a weak candidate.

Now Stuart Rothenberg writes at Roll Call that this seat likely would stay Republican if Mourdock is the nominee:

But this Senate race looks much tougher for Donnelly, who won election to Congress in the 2006 Democratic wave. Since 1974, the only Democrats to win an Indiana Senate race have been named Bayh (Evan in 1998 and 2004, and Birch in 1974), and while Obama carried Indiana four years ago, he isn’t expected to carry the state this year.

Like unsuccessful 2010 Senate nominee Brad Ellsworth, another moderate Democrat who initially was hyped by national Democrats but went nowhere, Donnelly is known only in the north-central part of the state, and voters outside his Congressional district aren’t likely to give him the benefit of the doubt when he talks about how “independent” he has been from the Obama administration. Republicans certainly have ammunition to tie him to Obama, such as his votes for health care reform, the stimulus and the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Donnelly voted against the Democrats’ cap-and-trade bill.

There is little doubt that Donnelly has a better chance of winning the Senate race against Mourdock than against Lugar. Even Mourdock supporters accept that fact, and that’s certainly why the Indiana Democratic Party has been trying to soften up Lugar whenever possible.

But acknowledging that Donnelly’s chances of winning improve if Mourdock is his opponent is very different than saying that a Donnelly-Mourdock race would be a tossup. While it could well be competitive, Donnelly would be a clear underdog in the fall.

Richard Mourdock is facing Lugar’s vast campaign wealth.  You can support Mourdock here.


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