While it's still a long shot for the Dems, Cook Political Report officially has Sen. Lindsey Graham's seat in SC in play, and Jaime Harrison at least has a shot at the upset.
Harrison has a unique story to be able to reach both black voters and potentially peel off former Graham voters, especially white college-educated women that were Republicans' Achilles heel in 2018. That combination can be targeted with his money and could make this race a closer one than the state's seen in over 20 years.
Born to a single mother in impoverished Orangeburg, Harrison was raised by his grandparents. He went on to attend Yale University and Georgetown Law School. In between those two, he taught at his old high school and worked with an organization to help low-income students attend college. Then he moved to D.C. to work for Rep. Jim Clyburn, serving as his floor director when the longtime congressman first became Majority Whip after Democrats captured the House in 2006. He also lobbied for the Podesta Group — a tie Republicans are eager to highlight — before returning home again to South Carolina. In 2013, he was elected chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, the first African-American ever to hold that post. In 2017, he made a failed bid to be DNC chairman, dropping out to endorse eventual winner Tom Perez. He did get a slot as the national committee's associate chairman, though.
Most impressively, Harrison had a record-setting fundraising haul during the first quarter of this year, bringing in $7.37 million to Graham's $5.68 million (which also would have set the record for the most raised in a quarter in the Palmetto State before Harrison eclipsed it).
Both candidates raised most of their cash from out of state — Graham around 80%, compared to about 92% for Harrison, according to our analysis of FEC reports. And Graham's campaign points out that he suspended fundraising amid the pandemic for the closing weeks of the quarter. The incumbent also still has a cash on hand advantage of about $4.8 million over Harrison.
Graham's political skills should not be underestimated, and he's clearly taking this race quite seriously, as he should. However, we also can't overlook the considerable resume that Harrison also brings to the race, and even South Carolina Republicans admit he is a strong candidate.
One GOP operative in the state told me those fundraising numbers from Harrison's campaign have left Republicans in the state "stunned" and that it is absolutely on track to be the most expensive race in South Carolina history, expected to top upwards of $40 million.
"He's a very dangerous candidate to Sen. Graham," the Republican strategist said, calling Harrison "the best Democratic candidate I've seen here in a very long time."
Others, understandably, remain skeptical, even given Harrison's strengths.
"I just don't think the math works out in Jaime's favor at this point," another South Carolina GOP strategist said. However, the operative did admit that "Lindsey is going to have to work harder than he ever worked before," but that "Jaime would have to run a perfect race, and Lindsey would have to make a lot of mistakes" to win.
Harrison's compelling ads highlight his early biography. He's used his money to run positive spots in every major media market in the state, talking about the challenges his grandparents faced trying to make ends meet in the state's "Corridor of Shame," eventually losing their home; Harrison eventually buys them one. Notably, though, his ads don't mention his party.
I mean with Republican Tim Scott as the state's other senator, that's definitely intentional.
Politics in the South are weird. Take a look at Georgia, for instance.
An internal poll conducted for the Georgia House GOP Caucus points to troubling signs for Republican leaders: President Donald Trump is deadlocked with Joe Biden and voters aren’t giving the White House, Gov. Brian Kemp or the Legislature high marks for the coronavirus response.
The poll also suggests trouble for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, showing the former financial executive with 11% of the vote and essentially tied with Democrats Matt Lieberman and Raphael Warnock. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins leads the November field with 29% of the vote, and outdoes Loeffler among Republicans by a 62-18 margin.
The survey, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was conducted by the political polling and research firm Cygnal between April 25-27 and it involved 591 likely voters. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.
Loeffler is toast. Among the poll's findings:
- Voters are evenly split on Trump, but Kemp’s disapproval rating (52%) outweigh his approval rating (43%). Loeffler is deeper underwater after grappling with an uproar over her stock transactions during the pandemic, with an approval of 20% and disapproval of 47%. Collins’ approval rating is about 10 percentage points higher than his disapproval.
- Georgians say their top priority is controlling the spread of the coronavirus and returning life to normal (35%), followed by rebuilding the economy (25%) and providing access to affordable, quality healthcare (17%).
- Trump and Biden are in a statistical tie in the race for president, with Trump at 45% and Biden at 44%. Only about 5% of Georgians are undecided, and another 6% back a third-party candidate.
- U.S. Sen. David Perdue leads Democrat Jon Ossoff 45-39 in a head-to-head matchup, with 12% of voters undecided.
- More Georgians said they were most concerned with public health (60%) than the economic impact (36%) of the pandemic.
- A majority of voters disapprove of the way Trump (51%) and Kemp (54%) are handling the pandemic. The General Assembly barely breaks even on the question, and many voters signaled they don’t know what lawmakers are doing.
- About 58% of voters said Georgia is moving “too quickly” to ease restrictions, though most (54%) back social-distancing measures and business closures.
- A plurality of votes (34%) think the “worst is yet to come” from the pandemic, while only about 22% think the worst is over. About 30% feel “we’re in the middle of the worst right now.”
- Most Georgians feel social distancing policies should continue at least a few more weeks, if not months, and only about 15% contend the state should “open everything now.”
I understand the theory among the right-wing noisemakers is "The people will make social distancing moot and will go back to work, school, and worship as normal in May" but I'm pretty sure after cases and deaths start skyrocketing in red states like Georgia, Florida and Texas -- and that's almost 100% guaranteed at this point -- that things will change very quickly among the Patriot Dot Eagle Freedom crowd.