Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party favorite, captured more than 60 percent of the vote in the Indiana Republican primary to oust longtime U.S. Senator Richard Lugar — demonstrating the clout of the Tea Party and sending a strong message to the establishment wing of the Republican Party.
On the morning of a critical Republican U.S. Senate primary in Indiana Tuesday, six-term incumbent Richard Lugar pronounced himself "ready with vim and vigor" to "do the Lord's fight today." If so, the Lord just lost a Senate seat in Indiana and lost it by a wide margin. Republican challenger Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party favorite, captured more than 60 percent of the vote to oust Lugar in the veteran Senator's first primary battle since he was elected to the Senate for the first time in 1976.
It was an upset without a surprise, however, as virtually everybody but Lugar appeared to be expecting a win by Mourdock, the state Treasurer. Still, it was a steep descent for the 80-year-old incumbent, who was so popular when he ran for his sixth term that even the Democrats did not put up a candidate against him in 2006, when the Democrats nationally won control of both houses of Congress. In this year's very different political climate, Lugar's "age, his home, his conservative credentials and his voting record all were under assault," wrote Mary Beth Schneider in the Indianapolis Star.
Lugar, the former chairman and current ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was widely respected by colleagues in both parties for what has often been described as his bipartisan, consensus-building approach to issues. While he was supported by fellow Republican office-holders, including Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the party's 2008 presidential candidate, he had friends and well-wishers on both sides of the aisle who believe his presence will be missed in the next session of Congress. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic candidate for President in 2004, went so far as to call Lugar's defeat Tuesday a "tragedy." President Obama, who served with Lugar during his four years (2005-2008) as Senator from Illinois, issued a statement praising the Indiana Senator for his bipartisan approach to problem solving.
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Photo of Richard Mourdock & Richard Lugar: AP Images