Dick Lugar and the biggest primary upsets in Senate history
If the polls are to be believed, Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar will likely join some very rare company on Tuesday, becoming just the seventh senator in 30 years to lose his party’s nomination for reelection.
And Lugar’s tenure in the Senate — 36 years — would make it one of the more notable upsets in Senate history.
But where would it rank in the list of all-time upsets? Below, we rank the biggest primary upsets of an incumbent senator since 1950, including a potential loss by Lugar.
(Side note: Overall, about three dozen senators who have lost primaries over that span, with the vast majority of them occuring in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.)
Did we miss any? Oversell any? The comments section awaits.
10. Utah Republican
Sen. Robert Bennett
(2010): Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) success in his convention fight this year makes Bennett’s third place finish in 2010 all the more amazing. While Hatch nearly won 60 percent of the vote at the state GOP convention last month (and would have avoided a primary if he had done so), Bennett didn’t even make the final ballot at the convention, finishing third to first-time candidate and now-Sen. Mike Lee and an unheralded failed congressional candidate in Tim Bridgewater. It was less surprising because the nomination process in Utah is prone to anti-incumbent elections, and because Bennett was basically caught flat-footed.
9. Tennessee Democratic
Sen. Kenneth McKellar (1952): McKellar lost a primary in his effort for an unprecedented seventh term in the Senate in 1952 at the age of 83. The man who beat him has a familiar name: Albert Gore Sr. (a.k.a. the former vice president’s dad). McKellar had drifted to the right during his time in office and his loss wasn’t a huge shock (the state’s incumbent governor lost a primary that year too) but it’s
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