Lindsey Graham donors explain why they ditched the GOP senator -- and now back his Democratic rival
Lindsey Graham appears on Fox News (screen grab)

The debate over how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic is now turning some Americans away from the Republican Party, according to The State.

In South Carolina, a self-described "moderate Republican" who has given campaign donations to both sides said he's not interested in reelecting Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

“I was a big supporter of Lindsey, especially back in the ‘90s,” said Wallace Lightsey. “I helped raise money for him and I really liked him. I thought he was very bright, very articulate and seemed to be pretty practical.”

Another concern is President Donald Trump and how he's forced Graham to be a different kind of senator.

“As far as Lindsey’s concerned, with me, it’s all about Trump and Lindsey’s over-the-top support of Trump. I probably wouldn’t have done anything different if he’d just stayed quiet, but his very vocal support of Trump … that really turned me off," said Lightsey.

A review of Graham's campaign finance data shows Lightsey is one of at least 24 Graham supporters who have flipped to support Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. The two-dozen supporters aren't going to remake an election nor will Graham miss the $68,000 in donations from the group, but if those donors are splitting off from Graham it could be part of a larger exodus.

“It’s 24 people,” said Furman University political scientist Danielle Vinson. “But if there are 24 people who are willing to put their money where their mouth is, there are going to be others who are going to show up and vote, and vote where their concerns are."

Graham likely doesn't care, however, he's managed to pick up a lot of Trump supporters to stand at his side. While Graham once aligned himself with the likes of the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), being friends with Trump has better electoral benefits. Losing moderate Republicans may be a problem, but when Graham's new friend, President Donald Trump, mobilizes his voters, Graham will win them over by 74 percent. That wasn't the case when Graham was attacking Trump. The quick turn has prompted some to criticize Graham as a politician who will simply "flop with the political winds."

“Given increasing polarization, it’s definitely unusual to see people switching parties, particularly big donors,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

“There are not a lot of good examples of this phenomenon,” she said, “which is why it’s so striking.”

Lightsey also isn't alone in abandoning Graham. One of his biggest supporters, Richard Wilkerson, the former chairman and president of Michelin’s South Carolina-based operations, announced in April he's leaving Graham too.

“I am confident that as our next U.S. Senator, he will be a tireless advocate for creating well-paying jobs, improving our state’s health care system, and training the next generation for the jobs of tomorrow,” Wilkerson said of Harrison. “Jaime is the perfect candidate to bring together South Carolinians from all walks of life.”

Read the full report of the Graham supporters flipping at The State.