Washington (CNN) - A conservative group that hopes to find a consensus candidate to launch a primary challenge against Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana says it welcomes the announcement that the state treasurer will mount a bid to oust the longtime Republican lawmaker.
"Hoosiers for Conservative Senate are pleased to learn that Senator Lugar will be challenged in the May 2012 primary," says Greg Fettig, one of the organization's founders. "We welcome State Treasurer Mourdock into the race and wish him success and look forward to the likely entrance of others into the race.
Richard Mourdock said over the weekend that he'll soon formally announce a primary bid against Lugar, the most senior Republican member of the Senate.
Lugar's been criticized by some Tea Party activists and other grass-roots conservatives for his willingness to work with Senate Democrats to seek bipartisan solutions for his votes in favor of President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominees, for his 2008 vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), and most recently, his early public openness to vote in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia.
Regarding the primary challenge, Lugar Senior adviser Mark Helmke says, "We had been anticipating that." He shared with CNN a poll that Lugar commissioned last autumn that indicates that two-thirds of Indiana voters have a favorable opinion of the senator. The poll indicated that a majority of Indiana voters were not familiar enough with Mourdock and other potential challengers to form an opinion.
Lugar, who officially announced late last month that he is running for re-election, said, "I take any opposition seriously." Days later he held his first Indiana fundraiser of the cycle.
A day after that fundraiser Hoosiers for Conservative Senate held a meeting to try begin the process of trying to find a consensus candidate to take on Lugar.
Some conservatives in Indiana still have a bad taste from last year's Senate primary, when former Sen. Coats Dan Coats won a three-way contest over more conservative candidates former Rep. John Hostettler and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman. Coats ended up easily winning the general election over Rep. Brad Ellsworth to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.
Lugar, 78, was first elected to the Senate in 1976 after serving as mayor of Indianapolis. Lugar did not face a primary challenge in 2006 and won 87 percent of the vote in the general election, facing only a libertarian candidate.
The winner of the May 8, 2012, GOP primary would most likely be considered the favorite to win the general election.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn