Dick Lugar, phone home.
The Republican senator from Indiana lost his bid for a seventh term on Tuesday. So badly that he got 39 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. So badly that the guy he lost to — state Treasurer Richard Mourdock — had run unsuccessfully for office five times before.
But the worst part was that Lugar should have seen Mourdock as a threat long ago.
National party operatives warned Lugar more than a year ago that he had major vulnerabilities in a Republican primary fight. They told him that if he didn’t change his voting record and rhetoric he could face the same fate as Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who lost a 2010 Senate reelection bid amid allegations that he was insufficiently conservative.
Lugar thought he knew better. In Washington, he was regarded as a senior foreign policy statesman and assumed that minor issues such as the fact that he didn’t technically, well, live in Indiana wouldn’t matter to Hoosier State voters.
What Lugar misunderstood was that legislating and campaigning are very different things. Although bipartisanship is an asset when legislating, it can be a killer in campaigns. And so Lugar’s closeness to President Obama, his vote in 2008 for the Troubled Assets Relief Program to bail out Wall Street and his defense of earmarks turned from legislative gold (or at least bronze) into campaign dross.
After his defeat, Lugar issued a 1,400-word rant against the rise of partisanship in the Senate — a denunciation that rang slightly false, given that despite all the unsavory aspects in the institution, Lugar had still done everything he could to remain in it.
Dick Lugar, for forgetting that Moscow, Ind., mattered more to your political career than Moscow, Russia, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats. Or something.
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