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SC-Sen: Cook Political Report Downgrades Lindsey Graham's (R) Status Again To “Lean GOP”

3 min read

Some big news today out of South Carolina:

The Cook Political Report on Monday moved its forecast of South Carolina's Senate race, which features Lindsey Graham (R) seeking re-election, from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”

The state of play: The race has tightened as Jaime Harrison, Graham's Democratic challenger, has proven himself to be a fundraising contender amid a favorable electoral climate for Democrats, driven by the coronavirus pandemic and a renewed focus on racial justice, per an analysis by Cook's Senate editor Jessica Taylor.

  • A Harrison victory would mark the first time that two Black senators occupied both of a state's seats simultaneously. Sen. Tim Scott (R) is South Carolina's other senator.

Cook Political Report downgraded the race again for a couple of reasons:


One of those was proving he could match the three-term incumbent from a fundraising standpoint. Harrison has now outraised Graham for two consecutive quarters. He has pulled nearly even with Graham for amount raised throughout the cycle, with $30.9 million brought in by Graham and $29 million total raised by Harrison through the end of June.

The second was a more favorable electoral climate that could help the Democratic challenger boost African-American turnout and woo white, college educated suburban voters to his side; now, the uncertainty and anger amidst the COVID pandemic — including a surge last month in South Carolina — has done just that. Racial injustice protests that swept the nation in early June also give Harrison, who is Black, further motivation for turning out African-American voters in the state. Were Harrison to upset Graham, South Carolina — the first state to secede from the Union in 1860 — would become the first state in history to have two Black senators serving at the same time, joining Republican Sen. Tim Scott.

Polling shows that possibility is no longer a long-shot, though the race fundamentals still give Graham an advantage. A Quinnipiac University poll conducted from July 30-August 3 showed the race tied at 44 percent a piece. Graham’s job approval was also narrowly underwater (47 percent disapproving and 43 percent approving), and he was losing independents by 10 points to Harrison. The Democratic nominee is also winning women by 5 points, but that slim advantage seems to be driven by Black women, since Graham is still winning white women by 26 points. Republicans also argue that the poll undersampled GOP voters and said their own polling shows a more sizable lead for Graham.

CNN’s Chris Cillizzia points out that Graham’s history of bashing Trump to being his biggest cheerleader has hurt him image and that heavy black turnout is essential to helping Harrison win:

To be clear: Harrison still needs record Black turnout (the state's population is 27% African American) and solid support among college-educated whites to have a chance at knocking off Graham. The state remains conservative at its core; there's a reason that Fritz Hollings, a conservative Democrat, was the last member of his party to hold a South Carolina Senate seat.
But Trump's ongoing struggles in handling the coronavirus pandemic — and the low ratings college-educated whites give him for it — as well as the national conversation about race (and African Americans' engagement in turning out to vote against Trump) make the coalition that Harrison needs possible.
Graham has proven since winning a Senate seat back in 2002 that he is a savvy pol and campaigner. His roller-coaster Republicanism of the last few years, however, has created the most serious race of his time in politics.

Let’s keep up the momentum and help Harrison pull off a huge victory. Click below to donate and get involved with Harrison, Biden and their fellow South Carolina Democrats campaigns:

Jaime Harrison

Joe Biden

Joe Cunningham

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