At the center of Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran's fight for his political life in today's Republican primary is this question: Has he simple been in Washington too long?

We won't know where voters in the Magnolia State come down on that question until later tonight -- polls don't close in Mississippi until 8 pm eastern -- but, as the headline above makes clear, Cochran has been in the nation's capitol for a long time.

He was first elected to the Jackson-based 4th district in 1972 as a 35 year old lawyer who "attempted to grasp the coattails of Richard Nixon as firmly as he could," according to the 1974 Almanac of American Politics, which went on to wonder: "Will Cochran be able to hold on in 1974?"  (He did -- and got elected to the Senate in 1978.)

The WaPo article above -- flagged by historian Jack Bohrer -- refers to a mugging in late January 1973 of iconic Mississippi Democratic Sen. John Stennis. Here's how the incident was described by the Post:

After driving home alone and parking in front of his house, as was his custom, he stepped out of the auto and was approached by two youths in their late teens, according to police accounts.

While he was standing in the roadway, the youths demanded money, “Get ‘em up,” one demanded. Offering no resistance, according to accounts, the senator turned over his wallet, which contained credit cards, a gold pocket watch, his Phi Beta Kappa key and a 25-cent piece.

“Now we’re going to shoot you anyway,” the youths were quoted by the senator. Or, the police reported, it might have been “We ought to shoot you anyway.”

Stennis underwent hours of surgery to remove bullets from his abdomen and leg.  He lived and went on to serve in the Senate until 1989, a total of 41 years, 1 month and 29 days in office, according to the New York Times obituary. If Cochran wins a seventh term this fall and serves it out, he will have spent 42 years in the Senate.