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Romney to stay neutral in Indiana Senate primary

 

Mitt Romney will stay neutral in the Indiana Senate primary, one of the biggest battles in 2012 between establishment Republicans and the insurgent, conservative wing of the GOP.

A Romney campaign official said Friday that the former Massachusetts governor has no plans to endorse either six-term Sen. Richard Lugar, or his challenger, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, in the May 8 primary.

MSNBC.com's Tom Curry writes Friday of the upcoming showdown:

As Lugar struggles to fend off Mourdock’s challenge, Democrats hope their candidate, Rep. Joe Donnelly, will profit from the GOP schism and pick up the incumbent’s seat in November.

That schism, between the party's establishment and conservative wing, is on full display in Indiana. Tea Party groups like FreedomWorks have backed Mourdock, as did the fiscally conservative Club for Growth.

But Republicans like Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels have endorsed Lugar, setting up a proxy fight between the two wings of the GOP in a couple of weeks.

Romney has generally steered clear of involvement in Senate primaries this cycle as he had focused on winning his own presidential primary. However, he backed Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch -- another veteran Republican targeted by the GOP's Tea Party wing -- against conservative challengers in this primary season.

Democrats have also complained about the neutrality of Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, a recognized conservative who's seeking the Hoosier State's governorship, in the primary.