"The guy was trying to take our jobs away," said Richie Boruff, president of the United Autoworkers Local 685 representing Chrysler workers in Kokomo, Ind. He's asking members to vote for Lugar, whether they're Republican or Democrat.
Even so, there's a sense that Mourdock is on the brink of something big. Even some longtime Lugar supporters are signaling it's time for a change.
"I think sometimes if you're in office too long, you think you become bigger than the office and you no longer represent Indiana. And in that regard, maybe Dick Lugar is an anachronism," said Lawrence County Republican Party Chairman Sam Bond, who first volunteered for Lugar as a student at Purdue University in 1976. Bond said he still respects the senator, but believes Lugar has become engulfed by a system that shuns change.
Hoosiers for Conservative Senate co-founder Monica Boyer said her group of tea party activists spent most of last summer focused on telling voters why Lugar should be kicked out of office, not on who should replace him.
That changed after their nominating convention last September. Mourdock attended; Lugar didn't.
"I went from being anti-Lugar to listening to what (Mourdock) was saying and being excited," Boyer said.
For his part, Mourdock calls Lugar "an absolute gentleman" and says he has voted for him in the past. But he also hopes this is the year that nice guys with long Washington records finish last.
"People at this level, they want to know a guy is going to take the fight for them," Mourdock said. "It's time to have some fight here and not just go along to get along."
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