Graham Hopes for Last-Minute Senate Campaign Boost from Supreme Court Hearings

By Lim, Naomi | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, October 16, 2020 | Go to article overview

Graham Hopes for Last-Minute Senate Campaign Boost from Supreme Court Hearings


Lim, Naomi, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation hearings were conveniently timed for Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, coinciding with the closing three weeks of his closer-than-expected reelection bid in South Carolina.

The 17-year senator prominently features in negative ads cut by Democrats, seeking to turn public opinion against him as Senate Republicans work to elevate Barrett to the country's highest court.

And Democrats gladly accepted Graham's 2016 invitation to hold him accountable for the GOP blocking former President Barack Obama from appointing Judge Merrick Garland to the bench because it was an election year.

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, 'Let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination,'" he said at the time.

But South Carolina political observers are skeptical that voters will punish him for his hypocrisy on Nov. 3, when he faces Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison at the ballot box.

"He may win by less, but he's not going to lose," Robert Jeffrey, a Wofford College government professor, told the Washington Examiner.

South Carolina conservatives are wary of Graham, given his reputation for vacillating between the political spectrum's far-right and center depending on the electoral calendar, according to Jeffrey. Voters still remember his early opposition to President Trump and his pro-immigration leanings.

But South Carolina Republicans want a GOP-controlled Senate, and Barrett's hearings gifted Graham with an opportunity to showcase his leadership and a venue to make zingy statements. He even earned praise from Democratic ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein at their conclusion.

"It's going to help him. No question about it," Jeffrey said, mentioning social media posts he'd seen in his own online network. "They know that he's a primer in some ways in order to get reelected, but at the end of the day, they hold their nose and vote for him because look at the alternative."

Graham and Harrison are considered to be in a toss-up contest by nonpartisan prognosticators such as the Cook Political Report and RealClearPolitics.

The three Quinnipiac University South Carolina polls conducted since July found Graham and Harrison were tied, while other pollsters separated them by single percentage-point margins, exchanging the lead at different times.

But even with a strong anti-Trump turnout and an active, well-funded opponent in Harrison, Jeffrey believed South Carolina's demographic composition hadn't changed enough for Graham to be ousted.

"I don't know how much gaslighting is going on by these polls," he said. "I don't think there's the votes to beat Lindsey. There's still a Republican majority in South Carolina."

The Graham-Harrison money race was similarly close until recently. Graham raised $30 million to Harrison's $28.6 million as of June 30. But last weekend, Harrison, a former Ivy League-educated teacher, legislative aide, and lobbyist, announced he brought in $57 million during the past three months alone, more than doubling Beto O'Rourke's Senate quarterly cash haul record of $20 million. …

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