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Lindsey Graham and the Half-Dozen Would-Be Kingslayers

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No U.S. Senator in South Carolina history has inspired so many primary challengers as the two-term Republican incumbent this cycle

lindseygraham10.jpgLindsey Graham's campaign is no doubt bullish heading into Tuesday's Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Unlike fellow GOP colleagues who have seen challengers record 19 percent (against Texas' John Cornyn), 20 percent (against Idaho's Jim Risch), 35 percent (against Kentucky's Mitch McConnell), and 49 percent (against Mississippi's Thad Cochran), recent polls have not shown Graham facing any challenger in double-digits.

That may very well change today after some undecideds cast their ballots, but Graham is still expected to crack the 50 percent mark required to avoid what would be an embarrassing runoff.

Still, despite sidestepping a competitive primary contest unlike some Republican U.S. Senators on the ballot this cycle, it is nonetheless telling that Graham sparked so many challengers to run against him.

In fact, never before have so many candidates appeared on a South Carolina U.S. Senate primary ballot.

A Smart Politics review of South Carolina election data finds that the six candidates taking on Lindsey Graham is the largest number of challengers in a U.S. Senate primary by either party since the first such contest in 1914.

Over the last 100 years through the 2014 cycle, there have been 41 contested primaries for the nation's upper legislative chamber in the Palmetto State.

(There have been an additional nine cycles in which the Democratic nominee ran unopposed since 1914 while Republicans did not have their first contested primary until more than a half-century later).

The seven candidates running in the 2014 South Carolina Republican primary is the most to appear on the ballot by either party in state history - as are the six challengers trying to unseat Graham.

In addition to Senator Graham, long-shot Republican hopefuls include State Senator Lee Bright, pastor Det Bowers, businessman Richard Cash, attorneys Benjamin Dunn and Bill Connor, and businesswoman Nancy Mace.

Prior to 2014, the biggest primary field for either party was six candidates - back in 2004 in an open seat race that saw Republicans Jim DeMint and ex-Governor David Beasley end up in a runoff in a race that included ex-Attorney General Charlie Condon.

Beasley finished first in the primary at 36.7 percent, with DeMint at 26.4 percent and Thomas Ravenel at 24.9 percent. (DeMint won the runoff with 59.2 percent).

The six primary challengers facing Graham this cycle is two more than the previous record of four set in 1948 when two-term Democrat Burnet Maybank sought reelection.

Maybank defeated W.J. Bryan Dorn by 27.1 points with 51.5 percent of the vote in the five-candidate field.

Five candidates appeared on the primary ballot on only one other occasion - in 1944, when Democrat Olin Johnston defeated Ellison Smith by 20.1 points with 55.2 percent of the vote in an open seat race.

Four candidates ran in South Carolina U.S. Senate primaries in five other cycles - all on the Democratic side: in 1914 (won by Cotton Ed Smith), 1920 (Smith, in a runoff), 1924 (Cole Blease, in a runoff), 1932 (Smith, in a runoff), and 1978 (Charles Ravenel).

The six challengers facing Graham equals the sum of all other candidates taking on Republican incumbent U.S. Senators in state history:

· Strom Thurmond faced one opponent in 1986
· Thurmond had two challengers in 1998
· Graham had one challenger in 2008
· DeMint had one primary opponent in 2010
· Appointed Senator Tim Scott has one opponent in the special GOP primary also taking place Tuesday

Thurmond did not face any opponents in the primaries for the 1966, 1972, 1978, and 1990 cycles.

Number of Candidates in Contested South Carolina U.S. Senate Primaries, 1914-2014

Year
Party
1st Place
%
2nd Place
%
MoV
# Cand
2014
Republican
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
7
2004
Republican
David Beasley**
36.7
Jim DeMint*
26.4
10.3
6
1948
Democrat
Burnet Maybank
51.5
W.J. Bryan Dorn
24.4
27.1
5
1944
Democrat
Olin Johnston
55.2
Ellison Smith
35.1
20.1
5
1978
Democrat
Charles Ravenel
55.9
John Culbertson
18.9
37.0
4
1932
Democrat
Cotton Ed Smith*
37.0
Cole Blease**
30.0
7.0
4
1924
Democrat
Cole Blease*
41.8
James Byrnes**
33.8
8.0
4
1920
Democrat
Cotton Ed Smith*
48.7
George Warren**
30.8
17.9
4
1914
Democrat
Cotton Ed Smith
54.7
Coleman Blease
42.3
12.4
4
2014 (s)
Democrat
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
3
1998
Republican
Bob Ingliss
74.6
Stephen Brown
21.8
52.8
3
1996
Republican
Strom Thurmond
60.6
Harold Worley
30.1
30.5
3
1980
Democrat
Fritz Hollings
81.2
Nettie Dickerson
10.6
70.6
3
1980
Republican
Marshall Mays*
42.6
Charles Rhodes**
34.5
8.1
3
1941 (s)
Democrat
Burnet Maybank*
47.4
Talmadge Johnston**
32.4
15.0
3
1936
Democrat
James Byrnes
87.1
Thomas Stoney
8.7
78.4
3
1930
Democrat
Cole Blease**
46.0
James Byrnes*
37.8
8.2
3
1926
Democrat
Cotton Ed Smith*
42.0
Edgar Brown**
38.1
3.9
3
1918 (s)
Democrat
William Pollock*
34.9
Thomas Peeples**
33.8
1.1
3
1918
Democrat
Nathaniel Dial
58.7
Cole Blease
36.5
22.2
3
2014 (s)
Republican
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
2
2014
Democrat
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
TBD
2
2010
Democrat
Alvin Greene
59.0
Vic Rawl
41.0
18.0
2
2010
Republican
Jim DeMint
83.0
Susan Gaddy
17.0
66.0
2
2008
Democrat
Bob Conley
50.3
Michael Cone
49.7
0.6
2
2008
Republican
Lindsey Graham
66.8
Buddy Witherspoon
33.2
33.6
2
2004
Democrat
Inez Tenenbaum
74.5
Ben Fraiser
24.5
50.0
2
1996
Democrat
Elliot Close
62.1
Cecil Williams
37.9
24.2
2
1992
Republican
Tommy Hartnett
76.8
Charlie Thompson
23.2
53.6
2
1986
Republican
Henry McMaster
53.4
Henry Jordan
46.6
6.8
2
1984
Democrat
Melvin Purvis
50.2
Cecil Williams
49.8
0.4
2
1984
Republican
Strom Thurmond
94.3
Bob Cunningham
5.6
88.7
2
1972
Democrat
Eugene Zeigler
58.7
John Culbertson
41.3
17.4
2
1968
Democrat
Fritz Hollings
78.4
John Culbertson
21.6
56.8
2
1966 (s)
Democrat
Fritz Hollings
60.8
Donald Russell
39.2
21.6
2
1966
Democrat
Bradley Morrah
55.9
John Culbertson
44.1
11.8
2
1962
Democrat
Olin Johnston
65.6
Fritz Hollings
34.4
31.2
2
1960
Democrat
Strom Thurmond
89.5
Robert Herbert
10.5
79.0
2
1950
Democrat
Olin Johnston
54.0
Strom Thurmond
46.0
8.0
2
1942
Democrat
Burnet Maybank
51.4
Eugene Blease
48.6
2.8
2
1938
Democrat
Cotton Ed Smith
55.4
Olin Johnston
44.6
10.8
2
* Won runoff. ** Lost runoff.

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