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Mourdock, Lugar hope to stand out in first debate

After months of campaigning, Senator Dick Lugar, R-Indianapolis, and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock will square off in a debate and both hope it will set them each apart.

Aishah Hasnie

11:11 AM CDT, April 11, 2012

Indianapolis

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After months of campaigning, Senator Dick Lugar, R-Indianapolis, and State Treasurer Richard Mourdock will square off in a debate and both hope it will set them each apart.

"This race could go either way," said political analyst Josh Gillespie, after reading the results of the Howey-DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll. The poll reports Lugar is heading into the debate ahead with likely primary voters. However, his lead is a slim one, 42 percent to 35 percent.

Gillespie said that spells trouble for the senior statesman, laying the biggest blame on his residency issues.

"Having to pay back $14,000 to Hoosiers for his stays at the JW Marriott, this hasn't played out well for him," said Gillespie. "(The poll) showed the momentum behind Richard Mourdock."

Gillespie said Mourdock will have to define himself at the debate to keep that momentum alive and the treasurer’s camp told Fox59 they can’t wait for the spotlight.

"People know who Senator Lugar is,” said Mourdock’s campaign manager Jim Holden. “I think it's obvious from the poll that he's only getting 42 percent, I think people are willing to give another candidate a try. But it's important for us to show who Richard is and get his name out there and I think this will be his opportunity to do that."

Lugar’s camp isn’t worried by the poll, though. They're focused on the large chunk of undecided voters they hopes to woo with the debate.

“It's a competitive primary and that is not a surprise," said Lugar spokesman Andy Fisher.

Republicans nationwide are watching this primary closely, because they are watching to see how much the race is going to cost them.

“For the Republicans, the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee) will definitely have to spend more money on a seat to retain it, if Mourdock wins, that they otherwise wouldn't if Lugar does because of the money Lugar has in his war chest compared to what Mourdock has,” said Gillespie. “ If Mourdock wins, expect to also see a continued involvement of outside groups.”

The debate happens this Wednesday at 7 p.m. Fox 59 will carry it live on-air.