After his return to the United States, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and eventually became a briefer for Admiral Arleigh Burke, the chief of naval operations, who was a hero of World War II and renowned as a guileful player in Washington politics. Friends said this was his most significant exposure to geopolitical thinking on a global scale and probably the single greatest source of his fascination with foreign policy.
After a few years back in Indiana running a machine business, he was elected to the Indianapolis school board. His old high school by then was 90 percent African-American and he pushed through a plan to make his alma mater one of the nation’s first integrated magnet schools for college-bound youngsters, and it became divided evenly between blacks and whites. But the plan was highly unpopular politically and was reversed in little more than a year. Because of that, he suffered his first electoral setback, being defeated for school board president.
He rebounded, however, to be elected mayor of Indianapolis in 1967 at age 35. In his two terms, he helped conceive of and push through a plan to unify Indianapolis with surrounding Marion County in all forms of government but for the schools.
He defeated Senator Vance Hartke in 1976 after failing to unseat the state’s other incumbent Democrat, Senator Birch Bayh, two years earlier. He had always been able to campaign as a true son of Indiana and as someone who still operated a large soybean farm. He had no Democratic opponent in his last successful re-election race in 2006.
But six years later, he became a target for the unforgiving conservatives of his party’s Tea Party wing and was defeated in the Republican primary by Richard Mourdock, the state treasurer. It was apparent that many Republican primary voters had lost patience with Mr. Lugar’s moderate stances on some issues and especially his relentless and outspoken faith in the need for cooperation with Democrats
In fact, Mr. Lugar represented many of the features of Republican incumbents that Tea Party adherents came to regard with fury. In addition to his practice of working with Democrats, he was moderate on many issues. Attention to foreign relations has traditionally brought few political dividends to senators. And in his case, his inclination was toward an expansive, internationalist view of world affairs, often disdained by party conservatives.
The narrative of the Tea Party as an effective spoiler in Republican politics but without wider appeal played out after his primary defeat; Mr. Mourdock was defeated in the general election by Joe Donnelly, in part because of Mr. Mourdock’s statement that he opposed abortion in cases of rape because any resulting pregnancies were “something that God intended to happen.”