State Treasurer Richard Mourdock won the hotly contested Indiana GOP Senate primary on Tuesday night, displacing long-serving incumbent Senator Dick Lugar, 80, who was first elected in 1976 and sought a seventh term. He is the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Early results showed Mourdock with a 30-point win over Lugar. It was no great surprise to see that Mitt Romney won the Indiana presidential primary, as his only remaining opponent is Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
The Mourdock victory is being widely hailed as a sign of resurgent Tea Party strength. Lugar was seen as a moderate, and disliked by the Tea Party for supporting both the bank bailouts and President Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. The Mourdock campaign painted him as “President Obama’s favorite Republican,” and raised the question of his lack of residence in Indiana to portray him as a creature of the Beltway.
Lugar, in turn, said Mourdock was “unqualified to handle the complex situations in our world today,” and described him as a tool of special interests from outside the state. The Lugar campaign outspent Mourdock by better than 3 to 1, but Mourdock had an advantage in super PAC funding that somewhat leveled the playing field.
Despite the bitterness of a campaign that ended up splitting the 2008 Republican presidential ticket, with John McCain supporting Lugar while Sarah Palin endorsed Mourdock, Lugar conceded his race by hoping that Mourdock would prevail in November. He will face Democrat Joe Donnelly.