Did The Tea Party Sink Lugar?

May 9 2012 @ 2:19pm

How Mourdock framed the election:

Ramesh Ponnuru's reaction to Lugar's loss:

In short: The tea party may be losing popularity, but its power inside the Republican party appears to be growing.

Conn Carroll agrees:

If Mourdock loses the general election, Republican moderates and their lobbyist friends on K Street will paint the Tea Party as extremists who can’t win elections. They will will try and define the Tea Party movement as the party of Christine O’Donnell, Sharon Angle, and Joe Miller. But if Mourdock wins, the Tea Party will be the center of the Republican Party, embodied by Sens. Marco Rubio, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, Scott Brown. 

Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake counter that narrative:

At its heart, Lugar’s defeat was attributable to the fact that he broke the political golden rule: Never lose touch with the people who elected you. “A strong majority of GOP primary voters felt that Lugar had served too long and was too old and should retire,” said Christine Matthews, a Republican pollster who conducted several bipartisan surveys in the state. “Three-fourths of voters supporting Mourdock said their reasons centered around Lugar’s longevity, age, and lack of residency.”

Noah Millman doubts Mourdock will be an "ideological purist of any sort":

What Murdock has made clear is that he’d be more of a partisan than Lugar was. So, had he been sitting in the Senate when TARP or Medicare Part D or No Child Left Behind were up for a vote (all initiatives of a Republican Administration), there’s every reason to believe that Murdock would have voted the way the party leadership wanted him to – that is to say: in favor. But he’d be less-likely than Lugar to work on high-minded bi-partisan initiatives of one sort or another. Whether that’s a loss or a gain depends greatly on whether you think such initiatives are generally productive or generally pointless.

Chait fears that Republicans will become ever more extreme in response: 

The social norm against blocking qualified, mainstream Supreme Court nominees is one of the few remaining weapons the Republican Party has left lying on the ground. But if Republican Senators attribute Lugar’s defeat even in part to those votes for Kagan and Sotomayor, which seems to be the case, what incentive do they have to vote for another Obama nominee? And then what will happen if he gets another vacancy to fill – will Republican Senators allow him to seat any recognizably Democratic jurist?

Jennifer Rubin is more upbeat:

It is far from clear whether Republicans have slit their own throats for the general election, as they did in Nevada and Delaware in 2010. Indiana remains a red state, one that Mitt Romney is expected to win, thereby boosting down-ticket Republicans. Moreover, Mourdock’s opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), is vulnerable insofar as he has voted with the White House on legislation that is hardly popular back home (e.g., Obamacare, the stimulus).

Bob Wright applauds Lugar's career:

I think the ultimate tribute to Richard Lugar's career lies in what he said about several Senate votes that had come back to haunt him in the primary: "It was apparent that these positions would be attacked in a Republican primary. But I believe that they were the right votes for the country, and I stand by them without regrets." Of course, members of congress often talk as if they vote only for things they consider "right for the country," without any thought of political fallout. And of no one in congress is that entirely true. But I think it's a lot closer to being true of Richard Lugar than of most Republicans, and of most Democrats as well.

Nate Silver counts the remaining moderate Republican senators:

Overall … [the GOP] have very little of a moderate coalition left, and the Republican Senate is starting to grow as conservative as the Republican House.