Fellow Senators Mourn Richard Lugar's Defeat
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. At 80 years old, Indiana's Richard Lugar is the Senate's most senior Republican. He's served there for nearly 36 years. But yesterday, by a wide margin, primary voters forced him into retirement. Instead, they chose State Treasurer Richard Mourdock as Indiana's GOP Senate nominee.
It was a victory for Mourdock's hard line partisan approach to politics over Lugar's more moderate, collaborative style. As NPR's David Welna reports, fellow senators today mourned Lugar's loss.
DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: It was a nasty campaign in which Richard Lugar's lack of a home address in Indiana seemed to matter more to voters than his record as one of the nation's top foreign policy experts. Still, Lugar was magnanimous last night in conceding defeat.
SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR: I want to see my friend, Mitch McConnell, have a Republican majority in the Senate. I hope that Richard Mourdock prevails in November so he can contribute to that Republican majority in the Senate.
WELNA: Today, on the Senate floor, though, GOP leader McConnell said nothing about Lugar's defeat. The tributes came, instead, from Democrats, such as Illinois' Dick Durbin who serves with Lugar on the Foreign Relations Committee.
SENATOR DICK DURBIN: It's a loss to the Senate that he's leaving and it's a sad day on both sides of the aisle that Dick Lugar won't be part of the future of the Senate in person.
WELNA: And Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry praised Lugar as a man true to the old maxim that politics ends at water's edge.
SENATOR JOHN KERRY: He was serious. He was thoughtful and he refused to allow this march to an orthodoxy about ideology and partisan politics to get in the way of what he thought was the responsibility of a senator.
WELNA: Which is exactly what Lugar did with former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn. They teamed up in 1991 to pass the landmark Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which has helped former Soviet states secure and destroy thousands of nuclear warheads and long range missiles.
Still, critics, such as National Interest magazine's Jacob Heilbrunn, say Lugar had lost the clout he once had.
JACOB HEILBRUNN: His achievements were in the past and I think the GOP has changed so markedly that he had no discernable influence inside the party anymore.
WELNA: Fellow Indiana Republican Dan Coats said today that times have changed dramatically and people in his home state are very frustrated with Washington.
SENATOR DAN COATS: That frustration gets played out sometimes and it affects people who have had long distinguished terms of service.
WELNA: And for that, says New York Democrat Charles Schumer, Republicans will likely pay a price.
SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER: It's only going to give Democrats another pickup opportunity. The more the Republicans embrace the Tea Party agenda and its candidates, the more they damage their chances in November.
WELNA: A moderate Indiana Democrat, Congressman Joe Donnelly, faces off with Mourdock this fall.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.