Richard Lugar, longest serving senator, loses to tea party candidate

Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) on the right, with George Clooney and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Lugar was defeated in the Indiana primary by a tea party-backed challenger on May 8, 2012, after serving for more than 30 years in the Senate.

Richard Lugar, the veteran Republican senator who had held his seat representing Indiana since 1977, was defeated in the primary on Tuesday by his tea party challenger, Richard Mourdock, and spoke of "unrelenting" partisanship in his concession speech.

Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, got 40 percent of the vote compared to Mourdock's 60 percent, said the Guardian.

Political analysts have been looking for meaning in the defeat, with The Washington Post positing that Lugar had lost touch with his constituents, having lived outside the state for so long.

Christine Matthews, a Republican pollster, said, "A strong majority of GOP primary voters felt that Lugar had served too long and was too old and should retire." She added that less that one in five voters supported Lugar's challenger for tea party talking points, according to The Post.

ABC News suggested that Mourdock's win over a six-term senator provided Democrats with an opening in a state that they might otherwise have written off. This in contrast to 2006, when the Democrats viewed Lugar's position as so invincible that they did not field an opponent, according to Reuters.

The Blue Dog Democrat, Rep. Joe Donnelly, now goes against Mourdock, who ABC News noted is a more polished politician than many of the tea party candidates of 2010.

Mourdock told ABC News, "Mr. Lugar is trying to paint me as this wild-eyed Tea Party guy. It’s not like I just popped up like a morel mushroom in the spring of agitation." He added, "I was out there for years before anyone had even heard of the Tea Party, saying the same things … the field has moved."

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Lugar's bipartisan votes for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominees, the auto industry bailout and the START treaty all likely worked against him, Lugar acknowledged.

In his concession speech, Lugar said, "Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint." He added that the partisan groups that had worked against him "make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years," according to Politico.

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The White House released a statement hailing Lugar's service, and Obama said, "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," according to The Los Angeles Times.

Vice President Joe Biden said, "The Senate lost a brilliant strategic mind, a man with absolute integrity. He will be missed," according to The LA Times.

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