Dick Lugar Loses Senate Primary
Dick Lugar entered the Senate in January 1977, and he’ll be leaving at the end of this year:
Sen. Richard Lugar – the longest-serving senator in Indiana history – will lose his Republican Senate primary on Tuesday to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, CBS News projects.
With 62 percent of the expected vote in, the Tea Party-backed Mourdock leads Lugar 60 percent to 40 percent.
Lugar’s exit from the Senate could contribute to the further polarization of an already bitterly-divided Congress.
Lugar, 80, has served in the Senate since 1976. The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is known for his extensive work on crafting bipartisan foreign policy, which has included reaching across the aisle to pass legislation with Democrat Sam Nunn to disarm nuclear warheads in the former Soviet Union. Lugar’s willingness to work with Democrats made him a target: Mourdock ran ads showing President Obama discussing reaching out to Lugar as evidence that the six-term senator should be defeated.
The 60-year-old Mourdock, who told the New York Times it is “time for confrontation” as opposed to collegiality, also criticized Lugar for supporting the “Wall Street bailout,” President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees and raising the debt limit. His message was amplified by the Tea Party-aligned FreedomWorks, which held “activist training” sessions and made phone calls on Mourdock’s behalf, and the super PAC Club for Growth, which spent more than $1.4 million on the race.
Mourdock and his allies also spotlighted the fact that Lugar no longer seemed to live in the state that he represents: In March, he was declared ineligible to vote in his home precinct, having effectively moved his family to suburban Washington in 1977 after selling his house in Indiana.
They also argued that despite his lifetime rating of 77 out of 100 from the American Conservative Union – a rating that reflects a relatively conservative voting record – Lugar had drifted to the left of the conservative Indiana Republican electorate.
The race was being closely watched in the Senate, where it was taken as the latest sign that cooperation across the aisle may well result in defeat. The 2010 midterm elections resulted in the defeat of Utah Sen. Robert Bennett, who had a similar reputation to that of Lugar, at the hands of Tea Party activists.
Democrats are likely to spin this as an outcome that helps them in November but I’m not so sure. Indiana has been a reliably Republican state for decades — the 2008 victory by Obama is looking more and more like an anomaly every day — and Mourdock himself has been elected statewide on his own twice in the past 6 years, most recently in 2010 when he was re-elected as State Treasurer by more than 400,000 votes. Time will tell, of course, but I’ll be keeping this one in the GOP column unless evidence dictates otherwise.