With the defeat of Richard Lugar in Indiana, Republican’s have once again decided to play double or nothing with a senate seat. I am agnostic on whether this is a good idea or not because I am simply not smart enough to know. In poker the odds are implacable. If you can bet 10% into a $300 pot and your cards give you a 15% of winning, then over the course of many hands you will win money. But politics is not reducible to hard odds and mathematical calculation. Moving a senate seat from “strong Republican” to “leans Republican” has a ripple effect that can’t be assessed with any degree of certainty.
In the battle between Conservative Republicans and Less Conservative Republicans, the fighting will likely continue for several more cycles. For every Christine O’Donnell there is a Mike Lee. For every Joe Miller there is a Rand Paul. For every Marco Rubio there is a Sharron Angle. Only time, measured in decades, will answer what the net effect is or will be.
Richard Lugar was a moderate Republican but he was no Olympia Snowe and he was not a RINO. My first memory of Lugar was during the 1980 Republican Convention. He was a “young gun” at the time, considered to be a rising conservative star, and a possible VP pick for Ronald Reagan. As I’ve seen Lugar vilified in recent weeks it occurred to me that if the Ronald Reagan of 1980 were here today he almost certainly would have endorsed Lugar for re-election.
But though Lugar was a solid senator, he grew old and out of touch. Holding political office for a long time (or even not so long) often leads to a tin ear and an inability to see yourself as others see you. I think if Lugar had gone back to Indiana last year and assiduously applied himself to winning this nomination, he would have been successful. But 35 years in Washington deafened and blinded him to his own foibles. Assured of the centrality of his importance, Lugar committed political stupidity bred of arrogance and at age 80 now suffers a most embarrassing indignity.
Regardless of whether you supported Lugar or not, it’s imperative that Republicans of all persuasions close ranks behind Richard Mourdock. Next to removing Barack Obama from the Oval Office, winning the Senate should be Job 1 for all conservatives in 2012. The seat in Indiana must be held.