With 80 percent of the precincts reporting in Indiana, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock was ahead of Lugar, 60 percent to 40 percent.
In a statement Tuesday night, Lugar said: “If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate.”
Democrats think Lugar’s primary loss will give them a shot at a seat that has been out of their reach for a long time. Six years ago, Lugar did not even face a Democratic challenger. The 2012 Democratic nominee is Rep. Joe Donnelly, and party members think his reputation as a centrist will stack up well against Mourdock.
Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, framed the fall matchup as a battle between “independent” Donnelly and “extreme” Mourdock.
In a fund-raising e-mail sent to supporters after his victory, Mourdock blasted Donnelly’s ties to Obama but, noting Donnelly’s financial edge from having run unopposed in his primary, he pleaded for more finances to wage the general-election battle.
“Joe Donnelly has been a loyal soldier for Barack Obama. He was a deciding vote on ObamaCare. He voted for Obama’s Stimulus program and his bailouts. Donnelly voted for Obama’s policies so often that the President calls him his partner,” Mourdock wrote.
Republicans need four seats to take control of the Senate, and the path to that majority would be considerably more difficult if they lost Lugar’s seat.
But Republicans contend that Indiana is a solidly Republican state and that, even though Barack Obama in 2008 became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win it since 1964, that Republican advantage will give them the edge they need.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee circulated memos Tuesday evening touting Donnelly’s 2010 vote for President Obama’s health-care law, which remains unpopular in Indiana.
Republican insiders say Lugar’s loss was probably more the result of several years of self-inflicted wounds and less about the strength of the tea party in Indiana. Lugar faced questions about whether, after decades of bipartisan dealmaking in Washington, he had lost touch with his state’s voters.
GOP senators and national party strategists think that Lugar, 80, who was first elected in 1976, ignored their advice about how to run a more vigorous and effective campaign, thinking he knew his state better than they did, even though his last tough reelection bid was 30 years ago.