Photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.
GOP Sen. Richard Lugar lost his primary Tuesday to Tea Party-backed State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a result that will effectively cost one the longest-serving and more moderate members of the Senate his job.
As the New York Times reports, the 80-year-old Lugar had not faced a challenger from his own party since his first election in 1976. His defeat could serve as the latest warning shot to other congressional moderates, who are increasingly becoming an endangered breed on Capitol Hill.
Lugar's defeat, while not certain, was not exactly a surprise. Slate's David Weigel wrote a political obit for the veteran senator's career on Tuesday well before the votes were tallied, noting that a Lugar loss could provide the party with a litmus test for so-called "establishment" GOP congressmen. Moderate legislators, like Lugar, who voted for the bailout and debt ceiling deals, are particularly vulnerable to conservative, Tea Party-supported challenges from within the party.
Lugar had the endorsements of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Sen. John McCain, while Mourdock's run was backed by Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. Mourdock also saw significant support from super PACS. In total, $4.6 million was spent by the deep-pocked outside groups in the Indiana primary, most of it on Mourdock, Reuters reports.
The Los Angeles Times notes that the defeat prove useful for the Obama campaign, who have already released a statement praising Lugar's service in the Senate. "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," Obama said. Lugar's loss, the LA Times argues, supports the president's re-election narrative that paints to GOP as an increasingly polarizing party less willing to take on bi-partisan initiatives.