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.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Congress, Quick Takes, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    I think it helps, just not in the short term. The more people like Mourdock the GOP elects, the more you, James, et al. come to represent the “thoughtful” side of “the conservative movement.” I don’t see you as thoughtful about much of anything, so in the long run, these moves will provoke the emergence of an actually thoughtful conservatism.

    It’s time to get out of the way and let you guys have your creative distruction wet dreams come to fruition. I think you can turn this place into Guatamala or Venezuela in about three years. After that, we can start rebuilding the economy.

  2. The funny thing is I have yet to see any actual evidence that Mourdock is as bad as you seem to think. And to be honest, 36 years is more than too long for any person to serve in an elected office.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Another voice for austerity, not a good thing.

  4. Ben says:

    “time for confrontation as opposed to collegiality”? Yeah, that’s exactly what we need as a country. More obstructionism and cutting off your nose to spite your face, which was basically the Republican platform in 2010. Let’s dial it up some more! WooHOO, America F&$% YEAH!

  5. Tano says:

    Doug, although it is true that Indiana is basically a red state, they did elect Evan Bayh to the governorship twice and Senate twice, and Frank O’Bannon as governor, twice in the last 20 years or so.
    So I don’t think it would be so odd to elect the Dem this time. I think the polls show the race dead even.

  6. Tano says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    36 years is more than too long for any person to serve in an elected office.

    Why? If he does the job well, why shouldn’t he serve that long?

  7. Neil Hudelson says:

    Indiana has been reliably red for presidential elections. For senate and governor its been an entirely mixed bag. I dont think our red state status for presidential elections is any indicator of state elections.

    Not that im saying Donnelly is a sure win. Waaayyy too early to tell. Everyone has a 50/50 shot right now.

    And as someone who really dislikes Mourdock, Doug is right that he is quite qualified to serve. As much as i would like to paint him as Christine Odonnell it would be dishonest to do so.

  8. G.A. says:

    Damn Teabaggers!!!!!!!!

  9. G.A. says:

    I don’t see you as thoughtful about much of anything, so in the long run, these moves will provoke the emergence of an actually thoughtful conservatism.

    lol, Not militant atheist, Militant Marxist, or militant homosexual enough for you?

  10. superdestroyer says:

    A question to ask is why after more than 30 years why aren’t former staffers of Lugar dominating elected offices in Indiana. How many people who have worked for Lugar now hold pubic office in Indiana. My guess is that there are few if any formre staffers or proteges of Lugar holding office since most , if not all, of the former staffers probably still live in DC.

    Shouldn’t the first requirement for an elected representative be that that elected official actually care about the state or area that he represents. It seems that Lugar cared more about being wined and dined in foreign captails than actually doing something positive for Indiana.

  11. Tsar Nicholas says:

    If Mourdock loses the general and the GOP winds up with 50 seats (if Obama wins) or 49 seats (if Romney wins) would Mourdock and his supporters be able even to grasp the irony?

    That said, Mourdock actually is a very legitimate candidate and perhaps Lugar simply had passed his shelf life. This is not a O’Donnell or Angle-style fiasco. If Mourdock wins the general then from the conservative standpoint it’s a home run. Mourdock is 20 years younger, less entrenched and more conservative.

  12. @superdestroyer:

    Ummm one of Lugar’s former staffers is the current Governor of Indiana.

  13. Moosebreath says:

    I would like to see James post some ruminations on Lugar’s defeat. I think of Lugar as being the Senator closest to James’s views as sketched out here: strongly interested in foreign policy and a realist there, reliably conservative, but willing to work with Democrats to get his goals accomplished, willing to vote for confirming qualified mainstream Democrats to courts and appointive positions.

    And yet an accomplished man of these qualities, who 6 years ago had no major party opposition, was just overwhelming rejected in a Republican primary. If there isn’t room for Dick Lugar in today’s Republican Party, what does James think this means for the future of the party?