Obama's praise of GOP Sen. Lugar on START could cut both ways in primary

President Obama gave a shout-out to Republican Sen. Dick Lugar (Ind.) at his presidential press conference Wednesday, which might not be the best thing for the six-term senator.

Tea Party members are already targeting Lugar for the 2012 GOP primary, and one of the things they're upset about is Lugar's support of the New START Treaty, the reason for Obama's praise.

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Conservatives unhappy with Lugar's voting record could use the presidential praise as another reason to criticize the more centrist senator.

The president said Wednesday that he called Lugar to thank him for his work on getting the treaty through the Senate. Obama also recalled that his first trip abroad as a senator was with Lugar — the two went to Russia in August 2005 to tour weapons sites. They also visited Ukraine and Azerbaijan. 

"I just got off the phone with Dick Lugar and reminded him the first trip I ever took as senator — foreign trip — was with Dick Lugar to Russia, to look at nuclear facilities there," Obama said. "And I told him how much I appreciated the work he had done."

It's not the first time Obama has touted his ties to Lugar, who is highly respected for his experience and knowledge when it comes to foreign policy.

When Obama announced his candidacy for president in 2007, he stressed his bipartisan credentials, including saying: "I've worked with Republican Sen. Dick Lugar ... "

It'll be interesting to see if Lugar touts his work with Obama when the senator campaigns for a seventh term.