|Mourdock (left) and Lugar|
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Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana lost his party’s nomination tonight [Tuesday, May 8 ] because he had lost touch with the party’s grassroots.
Since his election to the Senate in 1976, Lugar had cut a profile as a moderate Republican...
True, Lugar wasn’t Arlen Specter — he opposed the stimulus and Obamacare — but his voting record was moderate enough to make him suspect.
And a combination of a poorly run campaign, a credible opponent, and a small, energized electorate sealed his fate.
1. Lugar ran a nasty and ineffective campaign.
Lugar seemingly ignored the Tea Party — even insulted it, at times.
He should have known better. On the campaign trail, Lugar said he knew he would face a challenge as early as October 2010.
Although Lugar raised over $4 million for his campaign, he didn’t hit the campaign trail until the fall of 2011. His opponent, state treasurer Richard Mourdock, however, announced his candidacy in February 2011. Lugar met some success in courting conservatives: Leaders of the Hamilton County Tea Party, for instance, decided to back him after hearing him out. But Lugar’s reappearance on the campaign trail also reminded the rank and file that they hadn’t seen him at their Lincoln Day Dinners and their party conventions for decades.
Furthermore, Lugar’s attacks on Mourdock simply weren’t creditable. Because Mourdock lacked a voting record to attack, Lugar’s camp tried to attack his character.
The negative campaign tarnished Lugar’s statesman image. When Howey/DePauw asked voters in their last poll of the campaign whether, over the past few weeks, their opinion of Lugar had became less favorable, 32 percent said yes, while 12 percent said no.
2. Mourdock was a credible opponent.
Unlike Christine O’Donnell or Sharron Angle, Mourdock committed almost no gaffes on the campaign trail.
Unlike the Tea Party’s less successful candidates, Mourdock was an experienced pol. He ran for Congress in the early Nineties as well as for the party’s nomination for secretary of state. And he had just come off winning two statewide elections as state treasurer. Soft-spoken and understated, Mourdock also put in a strong performance against Lugar in their lone debate in April...
Once Mourdock showed he was a credible opponent, he started rising in the polls.
3. Turnout was low and concentrated among Mourdock’s motivated supporters.
When Rick Santorum pulled out of the presidential race last month, Mourdock told Politico that it was the best possible timing for his campaign. Because Mitt Romney had sewn up the GOP nomination, there would be less interest among casual voters in Indiana. As a result, Mourdock predicted, it would be his more ideologically committed supporters who would turn out — and they did.
In the closing days of the campaign, Lugar was left to plead for the assistance of independents and Democrats to save his candidacy. That tactic — along with his refusal to say whether he would support Mourdock if he won the primary — only heightened Republicans’ suspicions of him. Lugar’s mistakes compounded each other, and now the 36-year incumbent, who once seemed invincible in the Hoosier State, has gone down to defeat.
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For additional views, see Mark Meissner's 'Why Lugar Lost' on The Huffington Post Blog, and David Catanese's Politico articles, 'Dick Lugar's political twilight ?' and 'Richard Mourdock topples Dick Lugar in Indiana Republican Senate primary'.