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Sen. Lugar's 36-Year Career Ends With Primary Loss


This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The last time that Richard Lugar was not a member of the U.S. Senate, the president was Gerald Ford.

GREENE: The United States was celebrating its bicentennial, and nobody had yet seen a movie called "Star Wars."

INSKEEP: The Republican first won election to the Senate in 1976 and became one of his party's leading voices on foreign affairs.

GREENE: But despite a conservative voting record, he sometimes agreed with President Obama, and he was embarrassed when his voter registration was rejected in Indianapolis, where he'd long ago sold his home.

INSKEEP: In yesterday's Indiana Republican primary, Lugar lost by more than 20 points. The winner was Richard Mourdock, a two-term state treasurer who had the backing of the Tea Party and national anti-tax groups.

Here's NPR's Tamara Keith.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: After months of trading negative campaign ads with Senator Lugar, Richard Mourdock started his victory speech in an unexpected way. He described Lugar as a truly great public servant, a great Hoosier, and a great American.


KEITH: In some ways Lugar, who is 80 years old, is a senator of a different era. He's among the very few still willing to occasionally cross party lines for what he sees as the good of the country. Mourdock told supporters his success proves voters want to move the Senate to a more conservative place.



KEITH: In a written statement, Lugar warned Mourdock that unless he modifies his, quote, "embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset," unquote, he will achieve little as a legislator. But after writing those words, Lugar addressed a small crowd of supporters in a ballroom in Indianapolis, and he took a more hopeful tone.


KEITH: It's this belief that has defined Lugar's career, most notably in the foreign policy arena, where he's worked hard for nuclear nonproliferation.

Former Republican Senator from Utah, Bob Bennett, says as a result of his work as a long-time member and leader of the Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar is one of the more recognizable Americans oversees.

SENATOR BOB BENNETT: It's a little bit humbling for a senator to go overseas with Dick Lugar and find out just how well-known and well-respected he really is, and then they kind of look at you and say, we know Dick Lugar, but who are you, basically.

KEITH: Lugar's loss is a sign of what former Senator Bob Graham calls end-zone politics: lots of politicians at the far left and the far right, and fewer and fewer in the middle. Graham, a Florida Democrat, says senators like Lugar made the Senate work.

SENATOR BOB GRAHAM: He's willing to step across the aisle, find someone who shares that belief and actually get something done. Unfortunately, that is an event which occurs only rarely in current politics.

KEITH: That's what made Sue Hirschman(ph), a Lugar supporter, so disappointed in last night's results.


SUE HIRSCHMAN: Dick Lugar is a wonderful statesman, and there are few of those left in Washington. And I'm just very sorry to see him leave, because I think they're losing a person of high quality.

KEITH: Richard Mourdock will face Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly in the fall.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Indianapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.