Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is facing as tough of an election challenge as he's seen, but could he actually lose to Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison?
Harrison has broken fundraising records and forced Graham to spend big on attack ads in a race that's virtually tied, according to recent polls, and at least one election forecaster is calling the race a toss-up, reported Politico.
“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."
Trump leads Joe Biden by 6.4 percent in South Carolina, according to FiveThirtyEight’s poll average, which is about half of where he sat in February, before the coronavirus pandemic wrecked the economy and nationwide protests over police brutality heightened the awareness of structural racism.
"I’ve never considered myself a racist, but I have been complicit in it because of my silence,” said Michael Quattlebaum, a Southern Baptist and lifelong Republican who has questioned his political values since the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.
The 51-year-old Quattlebaum wants elected officials to "be angry about this situation," but Graham and President Donald Trump don't appear to care.
“It makes me embarrassed to be a Republican,” Quattlebaum said.
That's why the software consultant is planning to vote for a Democrat for the first time in his life.
“I think Lindsey Graham, to a large degree, has been a talking head for Trump,” Quattlebaum said. “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 is not alone among Republicans who are considering a move away from the GOP in the deeply conservative state.
"I’m not going to vote for any Republican who doesn’t disassociate himself or herself from the Trump political school,” said Andy Savage, a Charleston attorney who has reliably donated to Graham's campaigns in the past.
“I just thought he was a really good person," Savage added. "I still think the world of him, I just don’t understand what’s happened to him.”
About a third of South Carolina’s 3.37 million voters are nonwhite, but Graham may not be able to count on votes from the conservative Democrats who usually back him, and Biden's popularity among the state's Black voters could boost Democratic turnout.
“I think this time around they’re probably not [going to vote for Graham],” said Danielle Vinson, professor of politics and international affairs at Furman University. “This time around, they’ve actually got a credible candidate.”
Biden saved his primary campaign and propelled himself into the lead by winning 61 percent of Black voters in South Carolina's influential primary, but Graham's continued loyalty to the deeply unpopular Trump could finally prove his undoing.
“What bothers me about him is his support of Trump,” said Johnny Hagins, a Greenville attorney who served on Graham's finance committee when he ran for president four years ago. “On the other hand, if we want our way about something, it’s good to have him.”