Could Clifford Case have won as an Indepedent in ’78?

The Democratic U.S. Senate primary in Connecticut next week has some similarities to New Jersey’s GOP U.S. Senate primary of 1978. Conservatives had almost captured the Republican presidential nomination in 1976, when Ronald Reagan came close to defeating an incumbent President; two years later, Jeffrey Bell, a conservative who had been Reagan’s speechwriter, challenged four-term incumbent Senator Clifford Case. Case was enormously popular among independents and even Democrats, but was viewed as too liberal for his own party and Bell beat him in the primary. Ned Lamont’s challenge to Senator Joseph Lieberman comes two years after progressive Democrats believed they had secured the presidential nomination for Howard Dean. Lieberman says he will run as an Independent if he loses the Democratic primary, which raises an interesting question for New Jersey political junkies: how would Case, who won re-election in 1972 by over 700,000 votes, have fared in the 1978 general election had he run as an Independent against Bell and Democrat Bill Bradley? For extreme political junkies, here’s the list of incumbent U.S. Senators to lose primaries over the last sixty years: 2002: Bob Smith lost to John Sununu, New Hampshire 1996: Sheila Fraham lost to Sam Brownback, Kansas 1992: Alan Dixon lost to Carol Mosely Braun, Illinois 1980: Jacob Javits lost to Al D’Amato, New York 1989: Mike Gravel lost to Clark Gruening, Alaska (Frank Murkowksi won seat) 1980: Donald Stewart lost to Jim Folsom, Alabama (Jeremiah Denton won seat) 1980: Richard Stone lost to Bill Gunter, Florida (Paula Hawkins won seat) 1978: Clifford Case lost to Jeff Bell, New Jersey (Bill Bradley won seat) 1978: Maryon Allen lost to Donald Stewart, Alabama 1978: Paul Hatfield lost to Max Baucus, Montana 1974: J. William Fullbright lost to Dale Bumpers, Arkansas 1974: Howard Metzenbaum lost to John Glenn, Ohio 1972: David Gambrell lost to Sam Nunn, Georgia 1972: Everett Jordan lost to Nick Galifanakis, North Carolina (Jesse Helms won seat) 1970: Ralph Yarborough lost to Lloyd Bentsen, Texas 1968: Edward Long lost to Thomas Eagleton, Missouri 1968: Ernest Gruening lost to Mike Gravel, Alaska 1968: Thomas Kuchel lost to Max Rafferty, California (Alan Cranston won seat) 1968: Frank Lausche lost to John Gilligan, Ohio (William Saxbe won seat) 1966: Donald Russell lost to Ernest Hollings, South Carolina 1966: Ross Bass lost to Frank Clement, Tennessee (Howard Baker won seat) 1966: Willis Robertson lost to William Spong, Virginia 1964: Howard Edmonston lost to Fred Harris, Oklahoma 1962: Maurice Murphy lost to Perkins Bass, New Hampshire (Thomas McIntyre won seat) 1954: Robert Upton lost to Norris Cotton, New Hampshire 1954: Alton Lennon lost to William Scott, North Carolina 1952: Ralph Brewster lost to William Payne, Maine 1952: Kenneth McKellar lost to Albert Gore, Tennessee 1950: Claude Pepper lost to William Smathers, Florida 1950: Glen Taylor lost to Worth Clark, Idaho (Herman Welker won seat) 1950: Frank Porter Graham lost to Willis Smith, North Carolina 1950: Elmer Thomas lost to Mike Monroney, Oklahoma 1950: Chandler Gurney lost to Francis Case, South Dakota 1948: Thomas Stewart lost to Estes Kefauver, Tennessee 1946: Charles Gossett lost to George Donart, Idaho (Henry Dworshak won seat) 1946: George Radcliffe lost to Herbert O’Conor, Maryland 1946: Henrik Shipstead lost to Edward Thye, Minnesota 1946: Burton Wheeler lost to Leif Erickson, Montana (Zales Ecton won seat) 1946: Robert LaFollette lost to Joseph McCarthy