Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Lindsey Graham Is In Trouble

 There have long been rumors of a tightening in the race for Lindsey Graham’s South Carolina Senate seat. Those rumors were confirmed in a poll earlier this month that showed the race in a tie. Now the Cook Political Report is downgrading the race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.

There are only two recent public polls in the race. A Gravis poll from mid-July had Graham leading Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison by seven points. Mere weeks later, Quinnipiac had the race in a 44-44 tie.

The rapid swing and scarcity of polling leave questions about the true state of the race, but Cook Political‘s Jessica Taylor notes that a favorable electoral climate and strong Democratic fundraising mean that Harrison’s attempt to unseat Graham is “no longer a long-shot, though the race fundamentals still give Graham an advantage.”

Fundraising is one of the few objective measures of determining the depth and commitment of a candidate’s base before Election Day and the figures from South Carolina underscore Graham’s peril. Harrison has outraised Graham for two consecutive quarters and the total raised by the two candidates is almost equal.

Taylor also notes that the current political climate is a good one for Democrats. The Coronavirus pandemic has stoked the electorate with anger and uncertainty and the Black Lives Matter protests have invigorated black voters, who make up more than a quarter of South Carolina’s population and who are overwhelmingly Democrat.

Jaime Harrison, a graduate of Yale and Georgetown Law who grew up in Orangeburg, is also black, a fact that may also help to rally support. If Harrison wins, South Carolina, the state that fired the first shots of the Civil War, would become the first state in history to be represented by two black senators at the same time.

Taylor also points out that there is more polling support for a close race than public polling would indicate. Two internal Democratic polls since early July found a two-point and a four-point lead for Graham.

These polls indicate that Graham is weak in the areas that cost Republicans the House in 2018. The data indicated that Harrison led Graham by 19 points among college-educated women and 7 points among suburban voters. Both demographics figured heavily in the blue wave from the midterms two years ago.

One factor in Harrison’s strong polling may be the fact that he began introducing himself to the state’s voters with positive, biographical television ads in early April. Graham did not respond until late May, allowing Harrison to define himself. Now, when Graham tries to paint Harrison as a radical leftist, the attacks are failing to stick.

Another factor is that Harrison does not seem to be a radical leftist. A Republican source told Cook’s that Harrison is running “a centrist Democratic campaign focused on dinner table issues that has captured a lot of disaffected moderates.” Centrist Democrats were another strong element of the 2018 “shellacking” of the GOP.

Graham also seems to be negatively affected by his strong association with Donald Trump, who often polls worse in the Palmetto State than Graham himself. Graham was long considered a RINO and reviled by Republican pundits as “Grahamesty,” but his independent streak disappeared as he rarely challenged or criticized President Trump. The Gravis poll that showed Graham up by seven showed that a plurality of voters thought he was too close to Trump.

Graham’s words from April have also come back to haunt him as the pandemic spread. The senator vowed last spring that the $600 enhanced unemployment payment would only be extended “over our dead bodies.” With more than 170,000 Americans dead from COVID-19, that sound bite doesn’t sound the way it once did and has become the basis for Harrison’s attack ads.

It is premature to say that Lindsey Graham will be evicted from his Senate seat this November, but conditions are ripe for an upset victory by Jaime Harrison. The race is one to watch closely, especially with the control of the Senate hanging in the balance of a handful of races.

Originally published on The Resurgent

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