The 76-year-old Mississippi Republican, who entered the Senate in December 1978 after serving six years in the House, is in danger of losing his seat to state Sen. Chris McDaniel in a primary runoff today.
McDaniel, whose limited-government and anti-Washington positions align with the Tea Party movement, led Cochran by 49.5 percent to 49.0 percent out of 318,902 votes cast in the first-round primary on June 3. A runoff is needed because no candidate won a majority of votes.
No senator with as much service as Cochran has ever been defeated for re-election in a primary, if one measures seniority at the time of the primary rather than at the end of senators’ careers.
While Sen. Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, and Sen. Kenneth McKellar, a Tennessee Democrat, currently rank ahead of Cochran on the all-time Senate service list, they had served slightly fewer than 12,964 days at the time they were unseated in the primary.
Lugar was beaten in May 2012 by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. McKellar, who entered the Senate in March 1917, was defeated in August 1952 by Al Gore Sr., the namesake father of the future House member, senator and vice president. Lugar and McKellar served out their terms. Cochran would pass both on the Senate all-time seniority list if he finishes his current term.
Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican who ranks seventh in Senate service, and Warren Magnuson, a Washington state Democrat who ranks 15th on the list, were defeated for re-election in the general election.
Cochran is emphasizing his seniority, highlighting state industry and institutions that have benefited from his bringing federal dollars to Mississippi.
Click here for a chart of the official county-by-county returns of the June 3 Mississippi Republican primary, as compiled by Political Capital from state election officials. Here are detailed data for the 20 counties that cast the most votes in that election: