The Tea Party Express formally announced Tuesday evening that Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) will be one of its leading targets in 2012, kicking off a nearly two-year campaign to unseat the veteran senator.
In a fundraising e-mail titled "Time to Punish Dick Lugar?" Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer wrote: "Dick Lugar has become the epitome of what is wrong in Washington, D.C" and that "it is clear that someone like this needs to go."
Lugar has recently earned the ire of conservative activists back home for his support of earmarks, his sponsorship of the DREAM Act and President Obama's nuclear treaty with Russia- and for dismissing the threat they pose to his re-election. The state's Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who received the most votes of any statewide candidate in last year's midterm election, is expected to announce he's challenging Lugar in the primary - his first intraparty challenge since 1976.
Lugar further angered Tea Party activists when he said that his conservative opponents need to "get real" to a local television station Monday - a point highlighted in the Tea Party Express' fundraising e-mail.
The Tea Party Express, which initiated successful primary challenges to Delaware Republican congressman Mike Castle and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) last year, isn't stopping with Lugar. Kremer said the group plans to announce further targets in the days to come - with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) viewed skeptically by the activists.