May 15, 2012

Epilogue leaves unanswered questions

Tuesday night evoked memories of the last day the legendary A.J. Foyt stepped out of a race car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a moment that evinced the words “There comes a time …” from the first four-time winner of the greatest spectacle in racing.

There comes a time to retire, or just walk away from your passion, Foyt started to say. He never made it to the end of his sentence.

Emotion overcame the man they called “Super Tex” and anyone who knew him or knew about him and how much he loved doing what he loved most.

For Richard Green Lugar, the moment came Tuesday night in a concession speech that many who have known or covered Lugar thought would never happen.

If most Hoosiers were asked to name the most famous Republican from their state, or the best model of political integrity in their state, or the all-time most popular politician from their state, chances are a majority might answer with the words “Dick Lugar.”

Based on longevity alone, his career in the U.S. Senate makes a case for that answer. He was the first four-term U.S. senator from a state and went on to serve two more terms.

Had some other state elected Lugar to six terms, he might be serving in the U.S. Senate again. But that’s just one of many unanswered questions in the epilogue of the Lugar legacy. Even another former Hoosier, Abraham Lincoln, lost from time to time, as Lugar did in 1974 when Birch Bayh defeated him.

Had Lugar been in Alaska and faced the same situation he faced Tuesday – a GOP primary loss – he could do what Sen. Lisa Murkowski did, or as Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut did after he lost a Democratic primary bid for another term. He could run as a third-party candidate in the general election this fall.

But that’s not Dick Lugar’s style. Like the outcome or not, Lugar will give the candidate who defeated him his best wishes and public party support – and move on, if not move back to Indianapolis.

What at first seemed unlikely, then stunning and then a foregone conclusion – his defeat to State Treasurer Richard Mourdock – was a byproduct of several factors.

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