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Tue Sep 29, 2020, 10:07 AM

Is Lindsey Graham Trumpy Enough for His Voters?

Is Lindsey Graham Trumpy Enough for His Voters?
A former critic of the president scrambles to save his Senate seat against Jaime Harrison.


(Slate) South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham committed to a new political course in September 2018, when he screamed at his Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee about their treatment of Brett Kavanaugh. He was no longer the politician whom Rush Limbaugh had once dubbed “Grahamnesty” for his commitment to bipartisan immigration reform, the senator whose conservative credentials the Republican base had called into question for his willingness to work with Democrats. He was reinventing himself as a base politician in a red state and a loyal ally, defender, and golfing buddy of President Donald Trump, whom he’d called a “race-baiting, xenophobic bigot” during the 2016 election cycle.

In doing so, he bought himself a smooth ride through primary season, followed by the bumpiest general election of his career. The last three public polls of his reelection contest against Democrat Jaime Harrison—a former top aide to South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and lobbyist—show Graham either tied or leading by a single percentage point. It’s the most competitive South Carolina Senate race in decades, and it’s reflected in the mammoth fundraising figures the race is generating. Harrison raised $10.6 million in August alone, more than Graham raised in April, May, and June combined. As Matt Moore, a Republican consultant and former chair of the state Republican Party, told me, $100 million could end up being spent in the race—four times the previous record. Graham has recently taken to appearing on Fox News multiple times a day pleading for money just to keep up.

Both the race and the fundraising have been accelerated into hyperintensity by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the decisions Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has made since then. Despite vowing in the past, with airtight language and on multiple occasions, that he would not move to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in the last year of Trump’s first term, he is now moving to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in the last year—the last months—of Trump’s first term. His shift in thinking has regularly been described as “hypocrisy.” As the Dispatch’s Jonah Goldberg has written, the maneuver “is better understood as simple and outright deceit.”

But simple and outright deceit is no-brainer political move to make when you have the problem Graham has. If you look under the hood at South Carolina Senate race polls, there’s a recurring issue for Graham: He’s not getting enough Republican support. A CBS NewsYouGov survey released this past weekend, which had Graham leading Harrison 45–44 percent, showed Harrison earning 94 percent of Democrats and Graham only earning 82 percent of Republicans. In a Quinnipiac poll earlier this month in which the race was tied, Harrison earned 98 percent of Democrats while Graham earned 89 percent of Republicans. As Morning Consult wrote last week, Graham is “one of the worst-performing GOP incumbents up for re-election this cycle among voters from his own party,” consistently trailing Trump’s support among Republican voters in the state. ...............(more)


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