PEOPLE ON both sides of the party line are focusing attention this fall on a hot and heavy Senatorial campaign in Indiana. Indianapolis Mayor Republican Richard G. Lugar is waging an uphill battle against Democratic incumbent Birch Bayh who seeks re-election to a third term as the state's junior senator.
Both candidates have made inflation their major issue--with Lugar battering Bayh's "inflationary" voting record. Since the party primaries in June, Bayh has countered with criticism of the nugatory "Nixonomics" under the past Republican administration.
Lugar, 42, and Bayh, 46, are articulate, youthful, and commanding and both have announced presidential aspirations. Their political futures may hinge on success or failure in this campaign.
Six years ago, Bayh trounced his Republican opponent--William Ruckelshaus, one-time EPA director--by more than 70,000 votes. Though Lugar is admittedly an underdog, Indiana Republicans believe their chances are a great deal more auspicious this year. Lugar's marks the first Republican administration in nearly two decades and only the third in the last 40 years of Indianapolis politics. A former Rhodes Scholar and valedictorian of his Denison College class, Lugar has amassed an impressive record as two-term mayor. In January 1974, a U.S. News and World Report analysis revealed that, among cities its size, citizens of Indianapolis suffered fewest homicides and robberies and second fewest rapes, achievements many attribute to Lugar's metropolitan improvements.
Lugar's innovative Uni-Gov program also merged metropolitan Indianapolis with the suburs, thereby advancing Indianapolis from 26th to 11th largest U.S. city. One possible Lugar liability this fall could be the Indianapolis Star's revelations last February of police corruption, though Lugar was never personally implicated.
In the wake of this scandal and Watergate, Lugar has reiterated the need for integrity in personal and political affairs and made available to the public his net worth and tax returns for every year he has net worth and tax returns for every year he has been in office. Republicans believe Bayh is particularly vulnerable on the financing issue. Bayh has never disclosed income tax returns and current reports do not reveal every campaign contribution. As Jack Anderson pointed out in January 1972, financing for Bayh's short-lived presidential campaign was never made public. Bayh has also been linked to extensive out-of-state labor support. Rowland Evans and Robert Novak reported recently in their syndicated column that "Bayh's re-election is a national goal of the United Auto Workers which is massively contributing cash, energy, and manpower..." The two columnists further tagged Bayh as a "labor candidate more than a Democratic candidate."
Figures also reveal that a large percentage of Bayh's campaign financing orgininated from out-of-state liberals, a fact on which the Republicans, aware of Indiana's general distaste for the group, hope to capitalize.
YET FINANCING per se is the least of either candidate's problems. This year the GOP state committee has a $1.75 million budget, covering all state races. More than 100 prominent Republicans known as the "Circle Club" have also contributed $200,000 (in $1,000 amounts) in the last four years to help Lugar finance his political campaign.
Though the Indiana Democratic organization is submerged in factionalism, Bayh has met with few problems because of out-of-state contributions available to him and the advantage of incumbency. Because of mailing costs and inflation, both candidates appear to have cut back on the number of newspaper and TV advertisements. Lugar is depending upon door-to-door contact, and direct mail and telephone efforts to give him needed feedback and recognition in the campaign. Bayh can also materialize on the franking privilege to eliminate some mailing costs.
Both candidates are running rigorous campaigns, in fact the charges and counter-charges have been so numerous that a Democratic political columnist in The Indianapolis News suggested the campaign issues might be burned out by election time.
High-ups in the Lugar camp see a Lugar win as a stepping stone to the presidency. Soundings at the 1972 convention showed Lugar had Republican support but suffered from lack of name-face recognition nation-wide. A senatorial position could provide that recognition. Currently, however, the short, dark mayor is finding recognition a problem even in his own state. Campaign efforts have focused on overcoming this stumbling-block, which is severe outside of the Indianapolis area.
Many Republicans are also skeptical of the timeliness of the Lugar campaign. Bayh is a youthful, handsome, down-home operator with a good number of accomplishments and a polished campaigning style. In his 12 years, the folksy junior senator has made numerous contacts, garnered seniority and made his activities known in his homestate. Lugar, considered by many to be the best Republican senatorial challenger, risks national obscurity if he doesn't run this year. He could also lose the Indianapolis mayoralty race in 1975, a defeat that would end his presidential aspirations. Though he can not expect to match his opponent's recognition, Lugar can hope voters will reject incumbents this fall as a purging concomitant of Watergate. A win could put him in the vanguard of Republican presidential prospectives.
That hope, however, could be counterbalanced by the white albatross of the Nixon administration. The Washington Post tagged Lugar "President Nixon's favorite mayor," an epithet which has stubbornly stuck. Lugar was the only big city mayor to serve as a surrogate speaker for the president in 1972 and his expertise in urban affairs (he defeated former New York mayor John Lindsay to become president of the National League of Cities) made him a logical presidential consultant on city issues. Nixon, however, never singled out the mayor and Lugar is quick to note that the tag was conceived by the Washington press and never the former president himself.
Bayh also has an impressive list of achievements under his belt--a record which Republicans may find invincible at election time. The junior senator led successful opposition in 1969 and 1970 against Nixon's choices of Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell for the Supreme Court. Bayh also wrote and guided to passage the 25th amendment on presidential inability and vice presidential succession. That amendment made possible the succession of Gerald R. Ford to the presidency.
Aspects of his record, however, could work against Bayh this fall. Republicans are zeroing in on his support of forced school busing and his opposition to the Alaska pipeline--two positions which many of the Indiana constituency do not share. In the past, Bayh has also been an advocate of gun control and a major opponent of a proposed new Indianapolis area reservoir for water supply--actions which have stirred up some voter opposition.
LUGAR, A moderate Republican with views congruent with many in his conservative state, sees Bayh's voting record as his most exposed flank. Lugar has scored Bayh time and again on his liberal and inflationary record--coining the shibboleth of "the old politics of promise and spend, promise and spend." Indiana currently ranks 50th out of 50 in money received per capita from the federal government--in addition to last in dollars returned versus tax dollars collected. Republicans point out that Bayh, as a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, could have done better for his home state.
Regardless of the record, recent events have made Lugar's defeat even more likely. In a well-publicized television debate, Lugar emerged with a bad make-up job, reminiscent of Nixon's debate debacle in 1960. The mayor, who generally speaks without notes, failed to win the victory for which he had hoped and the debate (the only one to which Bayh has agreed).
Bayh is also coming on strong with his countryboy image. Once every six years, the liberal Indiana senator (ranked five points to the left of McGovern by the ADA) comes home with a hard-sell conservative act. In August, the senator called for a well-publicized cut in an administration welfare bill, hardly consistent with any of his prior welfare votes. Bayh also loves to emphasize his rural origins (farm boy from Shirkieville, Inc.) and he has even scored Lugar, a Hoosier native, on his Oxford-Denison education, insisting that a senator with a Purdue education is best for Indiana.
Though two journalists reported last week that there are "slight signs of disaffection among conservative Democrats south of Indianapolis," Bayh's down-home style, soft-pedalling approach and slick skirting of issues should be unbeatable. Indiana Republican officials also believe the Ford pardon decision may work in Bayh's favor. They are afraid the decision could mean less interest in the Ford visit to Indianapolis next month--a visit deemed politically beneficial to the GOP two months ago.
At best, the Indiana Republicans consider Ford's action a blatant disregard of the party's need for good election returns this fall. At worst, it could mean the end of political aspirations for up-and-coming Richard G. Lugar.