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Tea party targets Sen. Richard Lugar: Can moderate Republicans survive?

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(Read caption) Senator Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana sits down for a conversation with reporters at a Monitor-hosted Breakfast to discuss the relations between the GOP and the Tea Party in January 2011.
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Earlier this year Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana criticized Indiana's tea party movement as "Republican renegades," telling them to "get real." As the 2012 campaign cycle begins to heat up, a shifting political climate suggests that the 36-year Senate veteran may need to take the tea party wing of his state's Republican party more seriously.

Driving that point home, following a straw poll by Indiana tea party activists on Saturday, the national Tea Party Express group announced Thursday the launch of the "Campaign to Defeat Dick Lugar," an effort to unseat the senator who is known by more conservative members of his party as a RINO, or Republican in name only.

The intraparty battle in Indiana is a poignant and potentially far-reaching example of the continuing attempt by disgruntled Republicans, independents, and libertarians to shake up the GOP establishment, represented to many by long-serving centrists like Senator Lugar.

Lugar has not only come to embody Capitol Hill bipartisanship, but he is also in competition with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah (another tea party target) to become the most powerful Senator on the Hill if Republicans capture the chamber next year.

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