Lindsey Graham probably never thought he’d be in the race of his life when he first announced he’d be seeking another term in the U.S. Senate, but he is, with his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison, raising more money than the incumbent and drawing even in recent polls conducted in South Carolina.
But why is Graham on the verge or losing a Senate seat that should be safe, considering that the Palmetto State has been solidly Republican for years and will likely vote for Trump come November?
“’If Graham’s fortunes are closely tied to Trump’s,’ said Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University, ‘then, for Graham to lose, you either have to predict a Trump loss in South Carolina (which would precipitate a Graham loss) or a situation in which Trump wins in South Carolina and many Trump supporters either vote against Graham, or don’t vote in the Senate race.'”
And it’s the latter of those two scenarios that appears to be happening across the deeply red South Carolina, where longtime Republicans say Graham’s connection to Trump is making them abandon the senator.
Michael Quattlebaum, a lifelong Republican and devout Southern Baptist, has begun to question Graham and Trump’s reaction to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this year:
“I think Lindsey Graham, to a large degree, has been a talking head for Trump. I know in his heart he doesn’t support everything that Trump represents, yet he does it anyway. And I have a problem with that.”
Quattlebaum isn’t alone in his disgust with what has become of the GOP in the Age of Trump.
Andy Savage is an attorney in Charleston who has voted for Graham in the past, but he’s also disillusioned with the senator:
“I just thought he was a really good person. I still think the world of him, I just don’t understand what’s happened to him.”
South Carolina has 3.37 registered voters, one-third of them nonwhite. And many conservative Democrats in the state that have cast ballots for Graham in the past are telling pollsters they won’t do so in November, leading Danielle Vinson, professor of politics and international affairs at Furman University, to note:
“I think this time around they’re probably not [going to vote for Graham]. This time around, they’ve actually got a credible candidate.”
When he hitched his wagon to Trump a couple of years ago, Lindsey Graham likely thought it would help him win reelection to the Senate. Instead, his fawning devotion to a deeply unpopular president may wind up sending both of them into an early political retirement.