Player of the Week: Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.)

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) has served in the upper chamber for six terms, but polls indicate he won’t be serving a seventh. 

After 36 years in the Senate, Lugar is expected to lose on Tuesday to Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party candidate. 

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Facing down his primary challenge, the 80-year-old senator took a strikingly different approach from that of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). 

Hatch, also seeking his seventh Senate term, moved right and engaged with Tea Party activists. In other words, he ran a deft rather than defiant campaign, and he is now favored to beat back his primary challenger. 

Lugar instead thumbed his nose at the Tea Party. While polls clearly show that the movement is not the force it was in 2010, it cannot be ignored; it is dangerous to anger a key faction of the GOP base during a Republican primary.

One could argue that Lugar stayed true to his principles, refusing to change his ways based on his political situation. He voted to approve both of President Obama’s Supreme Court justices, attracting immediate criticism from the right. 

Obama praised the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee in 2008 for showing him the ropes on issues that fall within the panel’s jurisdiction. The Obama-Lugar bond is unique, though it hurt the senator’s reelection bid. 

Lugar has had an accomplished Senate career. He led the way in reducing the threat of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and helped write agricultural and energy laws.

But his 2012 campaign included missteps, especially the controversy over his residency in Indiana.

Barring a late comeback, Lugar will join Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in falling short in recent party primaries. Murkowski and Lieberman were reelected without their former party affiliations. For Lugar, state rules prevent such an option.