Mourdock holds his own against Lugar in Indiana Senate debate

Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) held his own against longtime Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) in their Wednesday night debate.

While neither candidate delivered a strong attack in the surprisingly collegial debate, Mourdock's steady answers could reassure conservatives who are unhappy with Lugar that his challenger is a viable alternative in the race.

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The policy-oriented debate focused heavily on Lugar's strength, foreign affairs, and stood in stark contrast to the barrage of barbs thrown by groups attacking and defending Lugar.

There was little in the debate to change the trajectory of the race, taking away Lugar's last major opportunity to seize control.

Mourdock at moments failed to draw contrasts with the longtime incumbent — when asked who was the more conservative, he focused on his own credentials rather than Lugar's weaknesses.

But he did take a subtle jab at Lugar over his residency issues. Lugar has lived outside Washington, D.C., for much of his time as an elected official, and his political opponents challenged whether he was allowed to vote at the address he had been using — a case he won legally but lost politically.

"I am proud to call this state home," Mourdock said at one point. "It is a place that, if I have the privilege of serving as your U.S. senator, I'm not moving from."

Mourdock appears to have the momentum in the race. He was trailing Lugar by just 42 percent to 35 in a recent nonpartisan poll, and a variety of conservative groups from the Club for Growth to the National Rifle Association have made it a priority to defeat the longtime senator.