The political career of longtime senator and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Richard Lugar is seemingly at an end.
Tuesday voters in the Indiana Republican primary ousted Lugar in favor of State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, a consistent conservative whose campaign focused primarily on Lugar's being "too moderate" and too out of touch with issues back in the state he represented for 36 years.
Once known as "Richard Nixon's favorite mayor," Lugar was a throwback to the Senate's "go along, get along" years where bipartisanship was, then as now, more often an example of the Republicans going along with the Democrats to expand the scope and power of the federal government rather than engage in initiatives that produced sound public policy.
In the end the race wasn't close. Lugar lost, 60-40, which is not so much a ringing endorsement of Mourdock as it is the policies he represents—particularly a robust, supply-side strategy for curing the nation's economic ills. Where Mourdock is for tax and spending cuts, Lugar preferred the allegedly more balanced approach, preferred by Washington insiders, of finding clever and creative ways to raise taxes—even if he didn't vote that way.
His defeat says more about the evolution of the Republicans into the truly conservative party—in contrast to the Democrats as the officially liberal party—and the desire of the electorate for, as Ronald Reagan famously said, "bold colors" rather than "pale pastels."
It is likely but not certain that Mourdock will go on to defeat Indiana Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in the general election. While Obama may have carried the state in 2008 he is unlikely to do so again, which seems to doom Donnelly's chances from the outset.
His defeat Tuesday may not, however, be the last of Richard Lugar. By some accounts President Barack Obama's closest friend in the U.S. Senate, Lugar famously took Obama under his wing to school him in the rudiments of internationalist foreign policy. With Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton saying openly that she does not plan to serve in a second Obama administration, Lugar seems a natural—and now available choice as her replacement.
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