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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Politics | 9 comments

Lugar Loses Primary (UPDATE 3)

One of the better members of the US Senate has been defeated in the GOP primary in Indiana. From what I can tell his defeat is partly attributable to the perception that he has lost touch with voters and a poorly run campaign, so I can accept that in many ways he blew it.

At the same time I am deeply troubled by the campaign run against him, attacking him for working with President Obama. I didn’t like it when the left attacked Senator Lieberman for working across the aisle and I don’t like it now.

One of the ads run by Murdouck against Lugar showed President Obama talking about working with Lugar and the implication was that this was somehow bad.

Except had they played the entire clip, the legislation in question was a Nuclear Non Proliferation bill that won massive bi-partisan support, designed to keep tabs on nuclear and conventional war.

I also think this puts the seat, and Indiana itself, more in play for November. Lugar would have won with ease and his coattails likely would have caused the Obama campaign to cut back on the race.

Now the Democrats have a shot at the Senate seat and with the spending on the Senate race it is likely Obama will go after the state.


Looking toward the November election, National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said two weeks ago that “it will probably make it more of a contest if Sen. Lugar is not the nominee, but I’m confident we’ll hold the seat.”

Within minutes of Mourdock’s victory, leading Senate conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina — who’d stayed neutral in the primary — sent a message to supporters of his Senate Conservatives Fund, urging them to donate money to Mourdock.

“A year ago political pundits said Richard Mourdock couldn’t win this race. They said he couldn’t build the support needed to overcome the establishment machine. They were wrong,” DeMint said.

Now, DeMint said, “he needs our support now more than ever. Mourdock is virtually defenseless after spending everything he had to win the primary election. The Democrats are going to come at him very hard in the next few weeks and work to brand him as an extremist. We need to act quickly to replenish Mourdock’s war chest so he can get the truth out about his record and vision for the future of this country.”

As DeMint noted, Democrats quickly issued statements alleging that Mourdock is “extreme.”

Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said Mourdock was “a right wing Tea Party ideologue who questioned the constitutionality of Medicare and Social Security, says there should be more partisanship and less compromise in Washington, and actually compared himself to Rosa Parks.”

Lugar has issued a statement that defends his campaign but criticizes mega-partisanship. It’s best to read it in full at the link.
ABC News:

In Lugar, the Senate would lose one of its few remaining members with a habit of bipartisanship. In Mourdock, Lugar has been unseated by a mild-mannered, twice-elected statewide official who wants to eliminate five federal departments and cut more spending than House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would.

“I hope that Richard Mourdock prevails in November so that he can contribute to that Republican majority in the Senate,” Lugar said in his concession speech. “We are experiencing deep political divisions in our society right now. And these divisions have stalemated progress in critical areas. These divisions have stalemated progress in critical areas. But these divisions are not insurmountable. I agree that people of good will, regardless of party, can work together for the benefit of country.”

ABC News video of Lugar:

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ABC also has this:

President Obama lamented Lugar’s defeat in a statement released to press. “While Dick and I didn’t always agree on everything, I found during my time in the Senate that he was often willing to reach across the aisle and get things done. My administration’s efforts to secure the world’s most dangerous weapons has been based on the work that Senator Lugar began, as well as the bipartisan cooperation we forged during my first overseas trip as Senator to Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan,” Obama said. A still photo of Lugar appeared in a 2008 Obama campaign ad, promoting Obama’s bipartisan work on nuclear nonproliferation. Lugar suffered criticism over the ad in his run against Mourdock.

Throughout the campaign, Mourdock walked the line between attacking Lugar and showing him deference as a long-serving statesman. In their lone televised debate, Mourdock was reluctant to pounce on his opponent. “I can’t attack this grandfatherly figure in Republican politics,” he later explained to ABC News in a phone interview. Mourdock decided to run, he said, because members of the Indiana GOP asked him to–a request that surprised Mourdock, given Lugar’s long tenure.

Lugar’s loss made history. Among senators who had served at least six terms, only one had lost in a primary before Lugar: Kenneth McKeller, D-Tenn., who joined the Senate in 1917 and lost to Democratic primary challenger Al Gore, Sr. in 1952. Only 22 senators in history served as long as Lugar has of 1,931 total, according to the Senate historian.

UPDATE III: Talking Points Memo notes that in Lugar’s statement (the one we urge you to read in full) he hands the Democrats lots of ammunition. Earlier, TMP offered this:

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar (R), Senate stalwart known for a kind of moderate Republicanism well out favor in the modern GOP, lost his primary bid against insurgent state Treasurer Richard Mourdock Tuesday night.

The embarrassing defeat for Lugar caps off a 35-year career in the Senate and puts another nail in the coffin of centrist Republican political thought in government, which has been in deep decline since the Tea Party revolution of 2010 that put an increasingly ultra-conservative brand of Republican in Washington.

The loss was not a surprise. Lugar’s re-election bid was marred with embarrassing episodes surrounding his residency (he moved away from Indiana years ago, and his opponents were able to use that against him.) There was widespread criticism of the way he ran his campaign and squandered decades of goodwill in the Hoosier State.

Mourdock’s win, on the other hand, is more surprising. Though he’s a two-time statewide elected official, his campaign against Lugar did not get off to a great start. It kicked into high gear when outside conservative groups like the Club For Growth started spending big on Mourdock’s behalf, turning him in to the latest Tea Party hero out to enforce ideological discipline on the GOP.

Democrats were eager to help Mourdock along. They attacked Lugar, helping push the residency status hits and generally making life as hard for the veteran Republican senator as possible. Mourdock — who is vastly more conservative than Lugar — they left alone.

The reason is simple: Democrats see Mourdock as a Republican candidate of the Christine O’Donnell-Sharron Angle-Ken Buck school. Those three losing Republican Senate nominees (from Delaware, Nevada and Colorado, respectively) came to represent Tea Party over-reach in 2010, when the movement helped nominate candidates so unappealing they lost Senate races the GOP should have won.

The Huffington Post:

The Tea Party tossed another veteran Republican overboard Tuesday night, voting six-term Republican Sen. Dick Lugar from office in a heated Indiana primary.

With most of the percent of the precincts reporting, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock had 61 percent of the vote to Lugar’s 39 percent, sending Mourdock to a November matchup against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly.

A year ago, few people gave Mourdock much chance against Lugar, an Indiana icon regarded as one of the U.S. Senate’s leading statesmen on international affairs.

But Mourdock managed to cast Lugar as out of touch with the state that elected him 36 years ago, convincing not just tea partiers -– who supported Mourdock overwhelmingly -– but also many other Republicans that Lugar was too close to the Democrats.

Mourdock praised his beaten foe in his victory speech, but laid out a vision for the rest of the campaign and for governing that was at odds with Lugar’s history of working across the aisle.

“Hoosier Republicans want to see the Republicans inside the United States Senate take a more conservative tack, and we’re looking forward to helping do that,” Mourdock told cheering supporters.

And while Lugar advised in his concession speech not long before that Mourdock would need to work together with lawmakers in the Senate, the new nominee stuck to the belligerent tone he maintained in the campaign, warning that Democrats and socialists were destroying the nation.

Dick Polman Tweet:

Poor Dick Lugar. He made the mistake of getting old, and the mistake of reaching across the aisle to get things done.