Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, who has been in the Senate since 1976, got a primary challenger today, state treasurer and Tea Partier Richard Mourdock. Not only that, Mourdock circulated a list at his announcement claiming that 67 of the 92 county Republican chairs are endorsing him. If that's true, it doesn't bode too well for Lugar, who has long been seen as the Republican most vulnerable to a primary challenge in 2012.
But what is Lugar's real crime in the eyes of the state's Republicans? It really isn't his moderation -- Lugar is something of a centrist, but he's nevertheless with Republicans on almost every key vote. But you know who else is a moderate? New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who's pro-choice, among other things. But Christie enjoys yelling at people, particularly teachers, and generally acts like a jerk when the cameras are on (granting that in private, Christie might be just the sweetest guy in the world). That has made him a hero to the right. Lugar, on the other hand, is mild mannered, polite, and generally nice, even to Democrats. He's made a point of finding relatively nonpartisan issues, like stopping the proliferation of nuclear materials, on which he can work with partners across the aisle.
And that just won't do in today's GOP. The lesson is that when it comes to ideological purity, the point isn't so much your record but your manner. If Lugar wants to save himself, he might consider doing something to prove to his state's Republicans that he's not so nice anymore. Like maybe he could punch his good friend John Kerry in the face. Otherwise, unless Mourdock turns out to have some skeletons in his closet or something, chances are pretty high Lugar is on his way out.