Although some may find it hard to believe, Richard Lugar’s main opponent this primary season wasn’t Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party, Club for Growth or FreedomWorks, it was time.
This is not to say all those factors didn’t matter. Throw in millions of dollars in an air campaign, a feisty opponent with a lot of energy and a Republican party that has become much more ideologically conservative than in years prior and they all are the right ingredients for defeat. It also didn’t help Lugar had spent two weeks dealing with a residency matter that should never have been an issue in the first place. However, the final addition to the mixture, was time.
Richard Lugar had served, in my opinion honorably, for more than three decades. However, for the Republican voter, that was too long.
The Howey-DePauw poll showed that most of the Republicans who were opposing Lugar weren’t necessarily big Mourdock supporters, but they had simply felt that Lugar had been there too long and it was time for a change. When breaking down Mourdock’s support, 23% said they were supporting him because they thought Lugar had been in office too long, 16% thought it was time for change, 10% said it was time for new blood and 6% thought Lugar should retire. Only 18% of Mourdock’s supporters cited ideology.
Even in anecdotal conversation with my gardener this morning I asked who he was voting for. He told me that he thought Lugar was a good man, but he had just been there too long and it was time for a change.
Looking at the map of the electorate, a lot of Republicans felt that way. Mourdock won in the rural areas and donut counties and he stayed competitive in Indianapolis. Mourdock won every donut county except Boone. I had several GOP precinct committeemen call me over the course of the evening and the totals they were giving me showed a very close race in the city. When I heard, Lugar on the Amos Brown radio program Tuesday afternoon appealing to African-American voters to pull a Republican ballot I knew this was not going to end well. And it didn’t.
The good news for Lugar is that he can go back to the Senate and spend his final days being an advocate for Indiana. And he won’t be hurting for money, I can easily see him on a number of think tanks and speaking engagements.
Mourdock will have some challenges. The polls show him and Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly running a competitive race. And Mourdock will also have to do some outreach to The Indiana Republican establishment and business class. I have already heard from Republicans who say they would not support Mourdock if Lugar loss. So while Mourdock may have gotten 60% of the Republican primary vote, he cannot win without a good chunk of that 40% that went for Lugar. However, those are issues to elaborate on for another day.
For now Lugar leaves national politics, the way he began, with a loss. To paraphrase the Rolling Stones, time was not on his side.