Veteran Republican Senator Lugar soundly defeated

INDIANAPOLIS Wed May 9, 2012 12:09am EDT

File photo of Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) (C) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) (R) walking out together after a news conference after the Senate ratified the START nuclear arms reduction treaty at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, December 22, 2010. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

File photo of Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) (C) and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) (R) walking out together after a news conference after the Senate ratified the START nuclear arms reduction treaty at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, December 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Senator Richard Lugar, a 35-year Senate veteran and leading foreign policy voice, was soundly defeated in the Indiana Republican primary by a Tea Party-backed rival on Tuesday, jolting the American political establishment during a volatile election year.

Lugar, 80, was the first Senate incumbent ousted this year and his defeat showed that the anti-Washington, small government Tea Party movement is alive and well.

The veteran Senator lost to Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock by more than 20 percentage points, according to preliminary results from the state election division.

"Lugar's defeat is a wake-up call from the Tea Party to the Republican establishment," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist and chairman of CivicForum PAC, which endorsed Mourdock and contributed to his campaign. "It will make them think about how to proceed, not just in what they say but how they vote in the run-up the (November) election."

In a graceful concession speech, Lugar said he would use the remainder of his term to try to achieve some results in a gridlocked Congress.

"I look forward to what can be achieved in the Senate in the next eight months despite a very difficult national election atmosphere."

An emotional Mourdock, cheered by hundreds of ecstatic supporters, many decked out in red "Mourdock" T-shirts, called Lugar a "great Hoosier," the nickname for an Indiana resident, and "a great American."

"Hoosiers want the Republican Party to take a more conservative track in the United States Senate," he said.

The outcome of the race gives Democrats an unexpected opportunity to win a Republican-held seat in November's elections. Democrats are clinging to a 53-47 advantage in the Senate but have many more incumbents standing for re-election than Republicans.

Polls had shown that if Lugar won the primary he would easily be re-elected in November but if Mourdock won it would be more competitive.

Mourdock's Democrat opponent, Joe Donnelly, immediately began trying to paint Mourdock as confrontational and too conservative even for Indiana, a traditionally Republican state.

Mourdock said his campaign now would focus on Donnelly's support for Obama's policies.

"We are going to make that record clear," he said, "and it's not going to be accepted by the voters of Indiana."

COMPROMISE OUT OF FASHION

When Lugar last ran for re-election in 2006, he was seen as so invincible that Democrats did not field an opponent.

But the soft-spoken senator, who is the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, saw the atmosphere of Congress change dramatically to gridlock in recent years.

After the arrival of the conservative insurgent Tea Party movement on the U.S. political scene, Lugar's long track record of bipartisanship and foreign policy expertise were out of fashion.

His votes for Obama's Supreme Court appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan riled conservatives, as had the fact that he had not lived in Indiana since 1977. Some voters said they voted against Lugar because he was out of touch with the state.

Mourdock received a major boost from grassroots Tea Party support, with thousands of volunteers going door to door to get out the vote.

Lugar was seen as waging a lackluster campaign, refusing to shift his views in a more conservative direction and continuing to talk about foreign policy issues seen as remote from the economic concerns of some voters.

"How do I feel?" said Fred Pfenninger, 62, a collection attorney who supported Lugar. "The greatest elected official in Indiana history has just been defeated by a guy who is not nearly as competent."

Among those paying tribute to Lugar's bipartisanship over the years was President Obama, who said in a statement that while he and the senator "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."

During the campaign, Lugar bemoaned the amount of money spent on the race by outsiders, most of it on Mourdock.

Super PACs, the unregulated vehicle for a surge in campaign financing this year, poured about $4.6 million into the Indiana Senate primary, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

More than $3 million of that total went for ads supporting Mourdock or attacking Lugar, paid for by conservative groups such as Club for Growth, the National Rifle Association and Koch Industries-backed FreedomWorks For America.

While Lugar was backed by popular Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Senate colleague John McCain, many conservatives backed Mourdock, including former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum.

If Mourdock wins in November he will be more confrontational than Lugar, said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington.

"Given that Mourdock has said on the campaign trail that he would be a very partisan member of the Senate," she said, "I think that the Senate will become a more partisan place with Mourdock as a member if he wins."

(Reporting by Nick Carey and Eric Johnson; Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh and Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (16)
toooldtofail wrote:
The good news is the Dems will take Indiana. The bad news is the Tea Pots will make the GoP even more intransigent, thinking again that their election trumps working cooperatively for the good of the country and they must placate to Pots to get and stay elected. Poor US and getting poorer.

May 08, 2012 12:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
greatnesslost wrote:
The Democrats will not take this seat. They have nothing to run on. In addition Lugar was defeated due to information coming out he, along with Democrats were about to sell the US down the river with the new Law of the Sea Treaty with the UN. This treaty is treasonous – giving up US sovereignty to a foreign power, even paying for it by having half the royalties from off shore oil and gas production and money from lease sales go to the UN. The Treaty imposes a back door intrusion into US energy policy by creating a mechanism where ocean surface temperatures can be applied to order American industrial production cut back to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Lugar and Democrats didn’t want this to get out, but it did. Progressives with R and D’s were prepared to do real damage to the world’s most powerful economy. Lugar just was slapped down. In November given Democrat involvement with this sham of a treaty control of the Senate will go to Republicans. Obama is going to lose even more independent support.

May 08, 2012 12:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
lollol wrote:
toooldtofail wrote:

The good news is the Dems will take Indiana. The bad news is the Tea Pots will make the GoP even more intransigent, thinking again that their election trumps working cooperatively for the good of the country and they must placate to Pots to get and stay elected. Poor US and getting poorer.
Uh no

May 08, 2012 12:42am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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