Veteran Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar lost a bitter challenge from the right flank of his own Republican Party Tuesday night, his nearly four-decade career in the Senate ended by a tea party-backed GOP foe.
Also Tuesday, North Carolina voters weighed a gay-marriage ban and Democrats were picking a nominee to challenge Republican Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a June recall election, contests that overshadowed Mitt Romney’s unstoppable progress toward the GOP presidential nomination.
Romney won the GOP presidential primaries in Indiana and North Carolina and was all but certain of victory in West Virginia, drawing close to the 1,144 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination.
Even Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was essentially ignoring primaries that were likely to hand him 100 or so delegates of the 288 he still needed heading into Tuesday’s contests. he spent the day campaigning in Michigan, where he castigated President Barack Obama as an “old-school liberal” whose policies would take the country backward.
The outcomes of Tuesday’s far-flung voting were certain to give clues about the state of the electorate — and highlight the political minefields facing both Republican and Democratic candidates — six months before the general election.
In the biggest race of the night, Lugar lost to tea-party backed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who will face Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in the November general election. Before the polls had closed, Democrats were promising to compete hard against Mourdock. Republicans need to gain four seats to take control of the U.S. Senate, and a Lugar loss “gives Democrats a pickup opportunity,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.