INDIANAPOLIS | State Treasurer Richard Mourdock is expected to defeat six-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar on Tuesday, according to a new survey of likely Indiana Republican primary voters.
Mourdock leads Lugar 43 percent to 35 percent in the Howey-DePauw University Indiana Battleground Poll, co-sponsored by The Times Media Co. Mourdock's lead widens to 48 percent versus 38 percent for Lugar when respondents leaning toward one candidate or the other are included.
Fourteen percent said they still are undecided.
Mourdock spokesman Chris Conner said the results match up with what Mourdock's campaign is hearing on the trail.
"Hoosiers are tired of Sen. Lugar's willingness to support liberal causes in Washington; they feel he is out of touch with the values they hold dear, and they firmly believe it is time for a change," Conner said.
Speaking at his Indianapolis campaign headquarters, Lugar said voters will be making a mistake if they choose Mourdock as the Republican U.S. Senate nominee.
"Mr. Mourdock simply is unqualified to handle the complex situations in our world today," Lugar said. "Do not elect an unqualified person to serve in the Senate if you're serious about jobs, the security of our country and cutting spending."
Lugar stopped short of specifically requesting Democrats vote for him in the Republican primary but clearly won't mind if they do.
"I'm not asking anybody to cross over. I'm just saying positively to register your vote," Lugar said. "Otherwise, if you do not, I may not be able to continue serving you."
Just a month ago, Lugar led Mourdock 42 percent to 35 percent in the same poll. Since that time, the two campaigns and outside groups have spent millions of dollars on negative advertising trying to show Mourdock as untrustworthy and Lugar as too old and entrenched in Washington, D.C.
The attacks on Lugar appear to have worked, with 32 percent of survey respondents reporting their view of the 80-year-old senator has become less favorable in the past two weeks.
Just 23 percent said their view of Mourdock has become less favorable, which was offset by 22 percent saying their view of Mourdock has become more favorable. Only 12 percent said their view of Lugar has become more favorable.
Dissatisfaction with Lugar is the top reason most Republicans are supporting Mourdock. According to the poll, 39 percent of Mourdock supporters said they are voting for him because Lugar has been in office too long or because it's time for a change.
Supporters of Lugar cited his experience and record as the main reason he'll get their votes.
Lugar refused to say whether he will support Mourdock in the general election if Mourdock defeats him. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Lugar supporter, said Friday he is confident Indiana Republicans will unite behind Mourdock if he is the party's nominee.
Republican pollster Christine Matthews, of Bellwether Research & Consulting, said there's still a chance Lugar could pull out a victory if undecided Republican voters, of which 60 percent are female and generally less conservative, vote for Lugar.
But Democratic pollster Fred Yang, of Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, said the poll results point to only one conclusion — "Richard Lugar is likely to be defeated next Tuesday."
The survey of 700 likely Republican primary voters was taken Monday and Tuesday, and has a margin of error of plus- or minus-3.7 percent.