A new effort to help Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar fend off a tough primary challenge from State Treasurer Richard Mourdock has conservatives up in arms.
On Monday, Politico highlighted a piece of campaign literature sponsored by the Young Guns Network, a group founded by two former aides to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, encouraging non-Republicans to vote in the Republican primary.
“Indiana does not have party registration. You simply need to show up at your polling location on May 8, 2012 to vote for Senator Dick Lugar in the Republican Primary,” the mailer reads, adding at the bottom in large letters, “You can vote in the May 8th Republican Primary election! The May 8th Election is open to all voters.”
The mailer goes on to assert that Lugar represents “mainstream Indiana values” and works with Democrats “without compromising his common sense conservative principles.”
Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft called the move “unreal.”
“Majority Leader Eric Cantor went way over the line with his PAC’s trashy flier in support of anti-tea party RINO Dick Lugar,” Hoft wrote.
“I’d thought the Young Guns were supposed to speak for the younger, more conservative and reformist wing of the GOP,” Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who recently derided Lugar as an “elderly Rino,” said in an email to The Daily Caller. “Who knew they’d be spending money trying to get Democrats to vote in a Republican primary for a moderate who thinks he’s entitled to serve in the Senate until he’s 86?”
The Club for Growth was equally disgusted.
“Regrettably, Eric Cantor’s actions confirm the worst of what grassroots conservatives dislike about a Washington Republican leadership that is more interested in protecting its own than in promoting conservative principles and candidates,” Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller said in a statement.
The Mourdock campaign hit Lugar for the mailer in an statement reported by National Review.
“In yet another act of desperation to stem his precipitous drop in the polls, Lugar and his Washington establishment allies are now courting non-Republicans to vote in the GOP Primary on May 8th,” Mourdock spokesman Chris Conner explained. “All of this activity to convince non-Republicans to participate in the Republican primary begs a simple question for Senator Lugar: Will he pledge to support the Republican nominee for Senate if it is not him?”
Vice President for Government Affairs at the Family Research Council, Tom McClusky took his frustration out on Cantor.
“He is doing all he can to burn any credentials with conservatives he had,” McClusky told TheDC.
RedState’s Erick Erickson further blasted Cantor for the group’s action.
“This is more offensive than Cantor throwing his weight behind Adam Kinzinger’s re-election bid against Don Manzullo,” Erickson wrote. “He was successful there, but we need to shut him down in Indiana. The Republican Leader in the House of Representatives is not backing down from trying to drive up Democrat turnout in the Indiana Republican Primary.
Politico reports that the Young Guns Network is putting $100,000 into the race to protect Lugar.
Doug Heye, a spokesman for Cantor referred TheDC’s questions to the Young Guns Network, which has not responded to requests for comment.