We wrote in June 2019 and again in October of last year that Democrats were serious about challenging South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham with Orangeburg native Jaime Harrison as the candidate.
In terms of fundraising alone, the nature of the challenge two months before Election Day is clear: Democrats think they have a legitimate shot at what would be a major upset of a leading GOP senator.
In ranking the race in its top 10 most likely to flip in 2020, CNN this past week stated: “... it's hard to ignore the money and momentum Democrat Jaime Harrison has picked up for his quest to unseat Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, a Trump skeptic turned close ally. Harrison, a former state party chairman, has been outraising Graham, bringing in about $14 million in the second quarter compared to Graham's $8.4 million. A Quinnipiac Poll from earlier this month showed a tied race.”
That Harrison has the campaign cash to spend is apparent. His presence via campaign ads is heavy on TV and in other media. But Harrison is also using a grassroots approach, even in his home county where the strength of the Democratic vote should see him win by a sizable margin. After an event here to announce his rural agenda days before, Harrison was back in the county last Sunday to distribute school supplies via Harrison Helps, described as the “community service arm” of his campaign.
In those editorials from June and October 2019, we wrote that Republicans would be wise not to underestimate Harrison. And they are not.
Graham is also filling the airwaves with campaign ads, many of them portraying Harrison as too liberal for South Carolina and an ally of key Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The GOP message is not a new one in a state where no Democrat holds statewide office and a Democratic presidential candidate has not won since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Graham has been in the Senate since 2003 and has been re-elected twice since. Like his predecessor, Strom Thurmond, Graham has accumulated considerable power that comes with seniority. But Democrats are hoping to successfully paint Graham as a changed politician that once opposed President Donald Trump only to become a mouthpiece for the president over the past four years.
We wrote in 2019 that even with Harrison’s political abilities, the odds were still long on him defeating Graham. Despite any polling and reporting indicating otherwise, Graham remains the favorite to win another term. South Carolina is a “red” state in which Trump is heavily favored in the presidential race. It would be a shocker if the state’s voters at the same time ousted a Trump ally in favor of a Democrat solidly in the camp of Democratic leadership.
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