Nightly News | May 08, 2012
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Richard Lugar was known for a long time in American politics as Richard Nixon 's favorite mayor. That's some measure of how long he's been around. He was mayor of Indianapolis before becoming a senator 35 years ago. He's one of the lions in the US Senate , a moderate Republican in a very red state . And tonight, in the Indiana primary , he is fighting for his political life. Our report from NBC 's Kelly O'Donnell .
KELLY O'DONNELL reporting: Indiana Republican Senator Dick Lugar faced an unusual kind of political peril today.
Senator RICHARD LUGAR: You're taking a Republican ballot.
Unidentified Man #1: Yep.
Sen. LUGAR: That's great.
Man #1: Right.
O'DONNELL: He's widely respected here, considered unbeatable for decades, but now at age 80, even some friends say Lugar is likely to be rejected by his own party, after serving 36 years.
Unidentified Woman: You know, at this point, I feel like it's time for a forward looking person.
Sen. LUGAR: ...endangers our national security .
O'DONNELL: Lugar built a national reputation as a statesman on foreign policy, but made himself vulnerable at home.
Unidentified Man #2: He is out of touch with the people of Indiana . He never comes back here. Heck, he doesn't even have a home here.
O'DONNELL: That fact, Lugar sold his Indiana house back in the 1970s , suddenly hurts him now, when so much of the country is fed up with Washington incumbents. Could you have done more to stay connected to your home state?
Sen. LUGAR: Well, I've been perfectly connected all the way along. It's a ridiculous charge. You know, how could anybody be more Hoosier .
O'DONNELL: Outside conservative groups, including national tea party activists, spent millions attacking Lugar as not conservative enough.
O'DONNELL: And backed Indiana 's two-term state treasurer Richard Murdoch . Are you the tea party candidate?
Mr. RICHARD MURDOCH: I like to say I'm a candidate who's a Republican with a very broad base.
O'DONNELL: Governor Mitch Daniels , a Lugar supporter, says age and decades in Washington may have hurt Lugar more than the tea party . Is this a tea party effect?
Governor MITCH DANIELS: I think that's a very -- I think that's a very profound misreading of it.
O'DONNELL: And, Brian , Lugar says that criticism of his age is really just another personal attack, and he feels able to keep serving another six years. And while his own conservative credentials have been questioned, he has been appealing to Democrats and independents who are able to vote today to take a Republican ballot and vote for him. Brian :
WILLIAMS: Kelly O'Donnell in Indianapolis tonight. Kelly , thanks.