Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) took his latest jab at the tea party today, telling a local Indiana TV station that people need to "get real."
Lugar has vigorously defended his record as he faces a primary challenge from state Treasurer Richard Mourdock as he vies for a seventh term in office. His refusal to make concessions to the tea party agenda has been apparent, and at times the senator -- who has never faced a serious primary opponent -- even seems to be inviting a challenge.
A major tea party criticism of Lugar is his support of the START nuclear treaty with Russia, a position he defends. "I've got to say 'Get real,'" said Lugar in the interview. "I hear Tea Party or other people talking about they were against START. I say 'Well, now, hang on here.'"
"If you want to get into START, let's talk about it, but realistically as Americans, not as some Republican renegade," he said. "(I'm) trying to take warheads of Russia (out of circulation) so they won't hit Indiana."
Lugar also used the interview to defend his votes for SCOTUS Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
"I hope people sort of understand that because otherwise we polarize the Supreme Court business to a point that conservative justices offered by a conservative Republican president -- who'll be elected at some point -- are going to have trouble," he said.
Mourdock has already said he plans to run against Lugar, and state Sen. Mike Delph (R) is another potential opponent. Tea party groups in the state have said their goal is to unify behind one conservative candidate.
As the Washington Post's Aaron Blake wrote today, Lugar's defiance contrasts with Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch's (R) attempts to improve his relationship with tea partiers. That contrast is on great display today. As Lugar made his latest remarks, Hatch has invited himself to a Tea Party Express forum taking place in Washington tonight.