While you never know until the votes are counted, it certainly looks as though Republican primary voters will deny Sen. Richard Lugar a seventh term. (Assuming Indiana laws don’t permit a Joe Lieberman/Lisa Murkowski-style comeback, a possibility I’ve yet to research.) The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza looks at whether Lugar’s defeat was inevitable.
Cillizza reveals that Republican strategists huddled with Lugar at the beginning of last year to warn him to avoid mistakes made by Robert Bennett in Utah and Murkowski in Alaska. He apparently didn’t listen.
Instead, the senator seemed to believe — wrongly — that his situation was unique, that his connection to voters in the Hoosier State went deeper and was, therefore, tougher to break than those of his losing colleagues.
It’s somewhat understandable why he might feel that way. Lugar hadn’t won reelection with less than 67 percent of the vote since 1982. And, prior to winning his Senate seat in 1976, he served as mayor of Indianapolis for seven years.
And his opponent, Mourdock, had lost five previous races — including three bids for Congress, and struggled to raise any considerable amount of money for his campaign. (At the beginning of 2012, Lugar had over $4 million in the bank, while Mourdock had just $362,000.)
It’s also worth noting that by the time this meeting with GOP strategists happened, Lugar had already voted for TARP, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. He’d already been a leader on the New Start Treaty. So the record for a conservative challenger to go after was already there. Judging from the ideologically based counterattacks launched against Mourdock — criticizing him for supporting the same budget Lugar voted for, the flag-burning amendment, and stuff from 1990 — the cupboard must have been pretty bare. Lugar had to run on his superior Washington experience, which is precisely what many primary voters don’t like about him at this point in his long career.
UPDATE: I should note that the Cillizza piece is co-bylined with Aaron Blake.
UPDATE II: A commenter notes that Indiana has a sore loser law. So if Lugar loses the primary, he cannot win a seventh term.