Despite challenger Jaime Harrison breaking Senate fundraising records, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is projected to win another term in Washington. Graham, a Republican, has represented South Carolina in the Senate since 2003.
Harrison, 44, is a graduate of Yale Law School and served as the chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party from 2013 to 2017. This fall, Harrison broke Senate fundraising records, bringing in a staggering $57 million in a single quarter in the effort to take Graham’s seat. On Election Day, many polls reflected a razor-thin lead for Graham, while others reflected a tie.
Polls closed in South Carolina at 7 p.m. Eastern time. Republican President Donald Trump is also projected to carry South Carolina the presidential election.
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Live Election Results & Map Updates for the Graham vs. Harrison Senate Race in South Carolina
A year ago, Harrison was far from the household political name he has become. But in the last six months, Graham’s steadfast support for President Donald Trump amid the coronavirus pandemic inspired national waves of criticism. As a result, Harrison’s campaign got a much-needed boost of funding and attention.
According to Mother Jones, Harrison has raised $109 million in total for his Senate campaign, of which $57 million was raised from July to September — breaking the record for the highest quarterly fundraising total for any Senate candidate in U.S. history.
For The Cook Political Report, Jessica Taylor explained the decision to deem the state a toss-up on October 7.
“There has been no more surprising race on the Senate map than South Carolina,” Taylor wrote. “Even early this year, it looked like Sen. Lindsey Graham would cruise to re-election. Instead, the Republican incumbent finds himself in a tied race in both public and private surveys with challenger Jaime Harrison, who has proven to be perhaps Democrats’ best recruit and a fundraising behemoth.”
Taylor cited some choice words from an unnamed South Carolina Republican strategist. “It’s a jump ball at this point,” the strategist said. “Jaime is peaking at exactly the right time and he’s got a deluge of money. [Harrison] is blocking every pass there is from Republicans.”
Many polls reflected a slight to medium lead from Graham. Many of these leads were within the margin of error. A Sienna College/New York Times poll conducted from October 9 to 14 reflected a 6-point lead for Graham, for example. For this reason, FiveThirtyEight predicted Graham to be “favored” leading into the election.
Graham Has Held His Senate Seat Since 2003
Harrison may have out-earned and out-spent Graham this year, but Graham’s foothold in South Carolina is decades-deep. He’s been a senator for the red state since 2003, and has generally enjoyed favorable support levels from his constituents throughout those years. However, Graham’s popularity levels have plummeted nationally this year, with his popularity levels in South Carolina hovering in the mid- to low-40s, FiveThirtyEight reported.
In response to his increasingly challenging reelection campaign, Graham made several public pleas for help with fundraising efforts to defeat Harrison. Many of these appearances occurred in the form of interviews on Fox News. In late September, Graham appeared on Fox & Friends and said, “My opponent will raise almost $100 million. I’m being killed financially. This money is ’cause they hate my guts.”
In another plea that same night, Harrison told conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, “I’m getting overwhelmed.” To the viewers, he said, “Help me. They’re killing me moneywise. Help me. You did last week. Help me again.”
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