In what looked to be a David vs. Goliath match up, Indiana state treasurer and tea party backed Dick Mourdock defeated Senator Dick Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary Tuesday night. Sen. The Associated Press projected Mr. Mourdock’s win after the he led Sen. Lugar 61 to 39 percent in over three quarters of Indiana’s counties.
Mourdock Lugar was the third longest serving member of the Senate. Mourdock will now face Rep. Joe Donnelly, Indiana Democrat, in the general election. Democrats on Capitol Hill were quick to attack Mr. Mourdock following his victory.
“Well I think it shows that the Republican Party is now officially interchangeable and without any distinction from the tea party,” Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz told me on Tuesday night. “They have been swallowed by the tea party and have been engulfed by extremism. And I don’t think that’s what the American people want. I think that will be reflected when our candidates are successful,” she said.
Senator Lugar’s final efforts to reach across party lines and seek out support from Democrats ultimately sealed his defeat with Republican voters in Indiana. However, even after conceding, Lugar took a shot at Mourdock. According to the Associated Press:
A few hours after conceding, Lugar slammed Mourdock for embracing “groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican Party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.”“This is not conducive to problem solving and governance,” Lugar said. “And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve.”
Congressman Charlie Rangel, New York Democrat, believes the Mourdock win amounts to a “real shift in the politics of the United States of America where what was perceived to be a moderate was rejected so badly by a party and actually showed us that it’s actually not big enough to hold him.” Mr. Rangel explained to me.
“And I think it’s sad. And during my lifetime it happened within the Democratic Party—the Dixiecrats… you know that. The Republicans that bailed us out…bailed out Johnson on civil rights. So wouldn’t a part of a country, Democrat or Republican, get so polarized that the quality of a person is not as important as the votes he has taken on extreme positions, I think that’s safe to say. It’s sad. I only wish I could say that if it happened in my party. And I see no reason why I would not,” Rangel added.
(Listen to Rep. Rangel)
Senator Dick Durbin, Assistant Majority Leader and Illinois Democrat, does not believe the Mourdock win means Democrats should be overly concerned about the influence of the tea party over Senate races in 2012.
“I think frankly at least in my state, if it’s any indication, it’s going in the opposite direction. They are congressional tea party candidates elected and proudly carrying that banner that now won’t say those two words together, and I’m trying to argue how bipartisan they are,” Durbin told reporters on Tuesday. “I’ve seen it, you know, across our state. It turns out that one of our congressional districts saw a poll last week that is going to be a real battleground. There is a 62 percent negative rating of the tea party when you mention that phrase.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Senator Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, saw the writing on the wall for Senator Lugar and told reporters at his leadership’s weekly press conference, “The Republicans could be on the verge of selecting a far-right Tea Party candidate who will be running on a promise that if he is sent to Washington he will refuse to compromise on anything.”
Senator Schumer continued, “He wants to beat Senator Lugar for Lugar’s ability to compromise. He says there’s a problem, Mourdock does, of too much bipartisanship, and he can be counted on to obstruct. Well, there are a lot of things wrong in Washington, but too much compromise is certainly not one of them.”
“It’s only going to give Democrats another pick-up opportunity,” he said. “The more the Republicans embrace the Tea Party agenda and its candidates, the more they damage their chances in November.”