Is This Lindsey Graham’s Last Act? a Surprising Poll Gives His Critics Optimism
A new poll out on Sunday by CBS News/YouGov shows South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the President’s biggest allies in the Senate, trailing his opponent Jaime Harrison by one point. With the Republican incumbent being out-raised by his Democratic challenger, and a contentious Supreme Court confirmation process diverting him from the campaign trail, could the longtime Senator really end up losing in November?
It’s beginning to look more and more possible.
Graham, the one-time presidential candidate who once was deeply critical of then-candidate Trump, has become one of the President’s biggest supporters, strenuously defending the President’s policies and becoming his chief apologist in the Senate. The longtime conservative Senator’s flip-flop on Trump surprised many of his erstwhile supporters, and he has frequently been the target of ads by Democrats and Republican critics. In response, the Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans, has circulated a political ad using the Senator’s own words to describe Trump, and attempting to call into question Graham’s credibility and judgement.
Graham, who was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2002, is engaged in a close battle with Democrat Jamie Harrison, a rising star in the Democratic party and the first African American to lead the South Carolina Democratic party. Once considered a long-shot in his race against Graham, recent polls show Harrison locked in a dead heat with Graham among likely South Carolina voters. Although The Cook Report has the South Carolina contest “leaning Republican,” a poll out Sunday by CBS News/YouGov showed Harrison with a one-point lead over Graham. The newest poll, which is within the statistical margin of error, is nonetheless as sign of just how close the contest is.
But it’s not only the political attacks by his rivals that Graham must contend with; he is also losing the money race to Harrison. South Carolina’s senior Senator began the summer as one of the most well-funded Senate Republicans up for reelection, but by the middle of September, he was substantially trailing Harrison in campaign fundraising. His financial deficit was clearly on the Senator’s mind this past Thursday when he mentioned the issue in two separate appearances on Fox News.
“I’m getting overwhelmed,” Graham desperately told popular Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday evening. “Help me. They’re killing me, money-wise. Help me. You helped me last week — help me again.”
Harrison’s formidable fundraising comes in part from his leverage of the Democrat-supporting ActBlue campaign. In July and August, Harrison raised over $14.1 from online donors using the platform. That was after out-raising Graham on an almost two-to-one ratio in the second quarter, raising $14 million, as opposed to Graham’s $8.4 million. With the polls showing a tight race, and with the death of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg animating Democratic activists, Harrison has also been leveraging flash fundraising campaigns to raise even more money for political ads that are already swamping South Carolina airwaves.
With all of the challenges back home in South Carolina, in Washington, as Senate Judiciary Chair, Graham is charged with helping lead the contentious confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. The hearings will no doubt cost the struggling Senator time off the campaign trail and instead, in the Senate chambers. For Graham, it is time he can ill-afford to lose.
So could Harrison’s fundraising prowess and Graham’s struggling poll numbers actually knock off the three-term senator? While it’s too early to say, it’s clear that Graham, like the President, is in the fight of his political life. So how is the Senator speaking of the challenge?
“I am being killed financially,”Graham said on Fox News on Thursday. “This money is because they hate my guts.”
Maybe Graham is right. But perhaps it’s not about hate; maybe it’s just because voters in South Carolina think it’s time for Lindsey Graham’s final act. Either way, will Graham’s leadership of the Senate confirmation hearing of Judge Barrett really be his time for one last bow?
We’ll know when the curtain falls on November 3rd.