The Conservative Victory Project could backfire on the Republican Party.
And the Supreme Court Is unlikely to ignore that fact.
Pity Dick Lugar. Not only was he resoundingly rejected by Republican voters in the state he had served for decades, but he has not received anything close to the kind of valedictory from the Washington establishment that one might have expected for one of his reputation. Consider: when Evan Bayh announced that he would not run for reelection in 2010, the conservative Democrat from Indiana inspired all manner of Beltway laments.
Richard Lugar’s loss in Tuesday night’s primary has been heralded by commenters on both sides of the aisle as a harbinger of doom for moderate Republicans. The conventional wisdom has quickly congealed: Lugar lost because he voted for Barack Obama’s Supreme Court candidates, worked with Obama on an arms control treaty, and was generally not partisan enough for a GOP dominated by the Tea Party. That interpretation is plausible. But it’s not the only, or even the most likely scenario.
In 2010, John Danforth, a former Republican Senator from Missouri, was asked about the possibility of a GOP primary challenge to Indiana Senator Richard Lugar. Danforth pointed out that Lugar was a six-term Senator, one of the Senate’s most respected members, and its leading authority on foreign policy. He warned that “If Dick Lugar … is seriously challenged by anybody in the Republican Party, we have gone so far overboard that we are beyond redemption.” Many commentators will draw precisely that message from Lugar’s defeat Tuesday night by his Tea Party-aligned challenger Richard Mourdock.
If you were trying to get a handle on what the Senate will look like over the next decade or so, you could have done worse than watch Richard Mourdock and Joe Donnelly make the rounds on television Wednesday morning. Mourdock is, of course, the man who just ousted Indiana’s longtime eminence, Dick Lugar, from the Senate. Donnelly is the Democratic congressman he’ll be facing in November. Mourdock fulminated against everything Lugar stood for—namely bipartisanship and civility in politics, but also the auto bailouts that saved tens of thousands of Indiana jobs.