Sen. Lugar wins residency battle, but might have lost the messaging war

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) on Friday won the legal battle over whether he would be able to vote in Indiana, but the questions about him leaving the state to live in Washingtons suburbs seem to have done major damage to his chances at reelection.

Lugar hasnt lived in Indiana for decades, and his political opponents challenged whether he could vote there based on a former home hes maintained as his voting address during that time. A county board earlier voted that he couldnt, but has now ruled that he can claim a farm he owns in the state as his address.

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There has never been a question that Sen. and Mrs. Lugar are, and have been, residents of Indiana and Marion County, Lugar campaign spokesman Andy Fisher said in a statement. Today, the court has obtained from the Marion County Election Board assurances that the Lugars may vote from the Lugar family farm ... With this new legal guidance the issue of the Lugars voting registration is resolved. Any further challenge will clearly be nothing more than continued pettiness on the part of a handful of disgruntled political opponents.

The now-completed residency fight has mostly been generated by his political opponents, as Fisher claims. But that doesnt mean it hasnt worked: The story has been prominently featured on local television and in local newspapers, and Lugars challenge to the Marion County boards earlier ruling gave the story even more fuel.

He is facing Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) in a primary, and Mourdock has locked down the backing of many Tea Party groups in the state as well as the National Rifle Association, the fiscally conservative Club for Growth and the national Tea Party group FreedomWorks.

Although the legal question has now been settled, the conservative groups gunning for Lugar have already begun to bring up his residency in attacks against him. The Club for Growth has taken aim at Lugar on the issue.

When Dick Lugar moved to Washington 35 years ago the national debt was less than a trillion dollars,” it says in one ad. Now its over $15 trillion.

Recent polls from a pro-Mourdock group and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, both of which want Lugar to lose, show Lugar leading by a narrow 6-point margin.