New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote this week: "Politicians do what they must to get re-elected. So it's not unexpected that Republican senators like Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch would swing sharply to the right to fend off primary challengers."
Brooks further observed: "Lugar has earned widespread respect for his thoughtful manner and independent ways. Now, he's more of a reliable Republican foot soldier."
The latest congressional scorecard issued by the Club for Growth backs up Brooks' assertions. In an analysis of votes cast last year on federal budget, taxation, regulation, trade and other economic issues, the fiscally conservative group gave Lugar, R-Ind., a score of 80 percent. That brought his career figure up to 65 percent.
Hatch, R-Utah, scored 99 percent for 2011, compared with a career 78 percent.
The Club for Growth considers 90 percent a passing grade. Its political action committee has endorsed Lugar's opponent in Indiana's May 8 Republican primary election, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, the Democratic candidate for Lugar's seat, scored 9 percent for both 2011 and his career. The president of the Club for Growth is Chris Chocola, a former Indiana congressman whom Donnelly unseated in the 2006 general election.
Among the Hoosier congressional delegation, freshman Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, received the highest score, 99 percent, and ranked 13th out of all House members based on the club's pro-growth ratings. Rep. Dan Burton, R-5th, was close behind at 98 percent and 14th place. Burton, who is not seeking re-election, has a career score of 86 percent.
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., had a 96 percent score for last year, identical to his career mark. Rep. Mike Pence, R-6th, the Republican candidate for governor, got an 89 percent, far off his career score of 98 percent.
Lugar's campaign announced Wednesday that he will run radio advertisements touting his co-sponsorship of the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act. The bill would prevent the Obama administration from requiring that health insurance plans pay for contraception.
The bill was introduced last August by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. A dozen of the 37 Republican co-sponsors, including Lugar, have added their names since Feb. 1, about the same time the Catholic Church was protesting a provision of the health care law, since changed, requiring religious groups' health plans to provide contraception for employees.