New York Times reporter Monica Davey was in Indianapolis to cover the Tea Party toppling of the moderate, establishment Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana: "G.O.P. Voters Topple Lugar After 6 Terms." Davey barely concealed her regretful tone:
Richard G. Lugar, one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, a collegial moderate who personified a gentler political era, was turned out of office on Tuesday, ending a career that had spanned the terms of half a dozen presidents.
Mr. Lugar, a six-term senator from Indiana who had won most of his recent elections with more than 60 percent of the vote, lost a hard-fought Republican primary to Richard E. Mourdock, the state treasurer. Mr. Mourdock’s campaign was fueled by Tea Party groups and national conservative organizations that deemed Mr. Lugar too willing to compromise and poured millions of dollars into the campaign to defeat him.
Mr. Lugar, 80, had not faced a challenge from within his own party since his first election to the Senate in 1976, and his defeat seemed to serve as a caution to moderates on both sides of the aisle.
In February, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, a moderate Republican, decided not to run for re-election, citing polarization in Washington. Senators Kent Conrad of North Dakota, a Democratic fiscal centrist, and Jim Webb of Virginia, a moderate Democrat, are retiring. Two other moderate Democrats, Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana, face tough re-election races.
The American Conservative Union, which compiles ideological ratings for congressmen, would disagree that the Democrats mentioned by Davey are "moderates" or "centrists." While Sen. Snowe is a legitimate centrist based on her rating of 49 out of 100 (I'm rounding the ACU's figures to the nearest digit), Conrad's 18 is certainly not "centrist," and neither is McCaskill's lifetime rating of 15. Tester and Webb are no more centrist, with ratings of 16 and 14 respectively. (To be fair, only six of the 100 U.S. senators had complied ACU ratings between 30 and 70, an indication of today's polarized climate.)
Tea Party organizers and conservative leaders held the Indiana outcome as evidence of a broader national demand for Republicans with unshakable stances on fiscal reform and conservative values, as well as proof of the continuing power of the Tea Party movement.
“Richard Mourdock’s victory truly sends a message to the liberals in the Republican Party,“ said Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth. “Voters are rejecting the policies that led to record debt and diminished economic freedom.”
For a number of Mr. Lugar’s supporters, the results were a sorry arc -- not just for a man who has served for 35 years in Washington and as mayor of Indianapolis before that, but for a larger notion of trying to work across party lines in Washington.
Almost immediately, Democrats began emphasizing Mr. Mourdock’s conservative views. “Hoosiers deserve real leadership that will reach across the aisle in Richard Lugar’s successor, not Richard Mourdock’s Tea Party extremism,” said Dan Parker, the chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.
For months, the campaign here had been intense, expensive and, by Indiana standards, mean. National groups including the Club for Growth, the National Rifle Association and FreedomWorks, which helped build the Tea Party movement, had viewed Mr. Lugar as a ripe and overdue target, and they poured millions of dollars into the state.
“Everybody’s time comes,” said Ed Budd, who described himself as a Tea Party supporter and handed out Mourdock leaflets outside a polling place in Fairland on Tuesday when Mr. Lugar walked up looking, in Mr. Budd’s words, “diminished some” from the familiar image he had seen on television for so many years.
Throughout the day, voters for and against Mr. Lugar confided quietly that they felt sadness and discomfort as they witnessed the unfolding scene.
By contrast, the Times shed no tears when another "moderate," Sen. Joe Lieberman, was beaten by Ned Lamont in the August 2006 Democratic primary over Lieberman's support for the Iraq War.
Jennifer Steinhauer's mostly fair profile of Mourdock Wednesday appeared under this sour headlinke: "Many Pursuits, but Bipartisanship Isn’t One of Them."