Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock is on his way to a huge victory over incumbent Richard Lugar in today’s Indiana Republican Senate primary. With half the vote counted, Lugar is almost 20 points behind.
Lugar has been a Senator since 1977. His lifetime ACU rating is 77 percent. His ACU rating for 2011 was 75 percent.
These numbers show Lugar to be a man of the center-right, but not a strong conservative. Indiana Republicans have concluded, wisely in my opinion, that he is not conservative enough for them or for the State.
Lugar’s defeat will trigger the usual hand-wringing about the demise of bipartisanship in Washington and the takeover by Tea Party extremists of the Republican Party. This Politico story will be par for the course. But Democrats don’t nominate lukewarm liberal Senators in Blue states, and there’s no reason why Republicans should nominate lukewarm conservatives in Red states.
Mourdock will face Democrat Rep. Joe Donnelly in November. Donnelly probably has a better chance of defeating Mourdock than he would have had of defeating Lugar. But Mourdock’s prospects are good. Although President Obama won the state in 2008, his approval numbers are well under water (40 percent positive; 52 percent negative), and conservative Dan Coats (90 percent ACU rating in 2011 and lifetime) was easily elected Senator in 2010 (55 percent to 40 percent).
UPDATE: I understand that, by law, Lugar cannot run as a third party candidate in the general election, as Joe Lieberman and Lisa Murkowski did after losing their Senate primaries.
During the campaign, Lugar refused to say whether he would endorse Mourdock if Mourdock won the nomination. Because Lugar would not promise his endorsement at a time when doing so might have generated helpful good will, I don’t assume Lugar will endorse Mourdock now that it will do him no apparent good.
CORRECTION: Unlike Lieberman, Murkowski ran as a write-in candidate, not as a third-party candidate on the ballot. Theoretically, I guess Lugar could mount a write-in campaign.