But Lugar is more the diplomat and has none of McCain’s warrior profile. He had no history of the aggressive campaigning that was being asked of him. Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, is a soft-spoken and deliberate man who often seems more comfortable with briefing books on nuclear proliferation, on which he was the Senate’s leading expert.
The result was that he was something of an anachronistic figure in the current era of permanent, scorched-earth campaigns. In July 2008, after Obama had locked up the Democratic nomination, he aired ads touting his work with Lugar on the foreign relations panel. Rather than protest in an effort to help his party’s nominee, Lugar told reporters how happy he was to have worked closely with Obama to pass legislation dealing with the post-Soviet-era nuclear stockpile.
“So I am pleased we had that opportunity to work together,” Lugar said, even though he was supporting McCain.
The White House issued a statement from the president about Lugar’s loss. “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. “ . . .He has served his constituents and his country well, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
Vice President Biden, one of Lugar’s longtime counterparts on the Foreign Relations Committee, phoned the senator to thank him for their partnership. “We never had a cross word. In matters of foreign policy, we seldom disagreed,” Biden, who was the ranking Democrat on the panel for 12 years, said in a statement given to The Washington Post.
Conservatives have long questioned how committed Lugar was to their causes, dating to 1986, when Sen. Jesse Helms ousted Lugar as the top Republican on the foreign relations panel after the midterm elections that year. Helms portrayed Lugar as an internationalist who sided with the United Nations. In 1995, Lugar used his foreign relations expertise to seek the GOP presidential nomination, but the bid never got off the ground. He announced his candidacy the same day as the Oklahoma City bombings.
When it was time to seek a seventh term, Lugar’s transgressions against conservative orthodoxy extended far beyond his foreign policy views. He voted for Obama's Supreme Court nominees, he supported a comprehensive overhaul of immigration law in 2006, and he backed a scaled-down version of that legislation in 2010 that created a pathway to citizenship for children who came to the United States illegally with their parents.
Outside conservative groups poured millions of dollars into this year’s primary to bash Lugar or support Mourdock. But Lugar’s final undoing may have had more to do with his own mistakes than any tea party-related activity, senators and strategists said.
After taking office in 1977, Lugar sold his house in Indianapolis and settled in the Washington region, where he has lived for the past 35 years while continuing to vote in Indiana using his 1970s address. He stumbled in interviews with local media outlets trying to explain how he could live full time in McLean.
Republicans said the next few Senate primaries will provide a clearer picture of the tea party movement’s strength nationwide.
In Nebraska, state Attorney General Jon Bruning has the support of most senior state leaders for the GOP nomination for the seat of retiring Sen. Ben Nelson (D), but tea party activists are backing former attorney general Don Stenberg. In Texas, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has the most establishment support in the GOP primary battle to succeed retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R), but state Solicitor General Ted Cruz is trying to rally conservatives.