Cook shifts South Carolina Senate race toward Lindsey Graham opponent

The Cook Political Report on Monday shifted its outlook for the South Carolina Senate race toward Democrat Jaime HarrisonJaime HarrisonDNC chair: We have to 'battle the damage to the Democratic brand' Democrats bet on stimulus bill to boost them in 2022 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to hit road, tout COVID-19 relief law MORE, bringing Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamOvernight Energy: Biden reportedly will pledge to halve US emissions by 2030 | Ocasio-Cortez, Markey reintroduce Green New Deal resolution The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP draws line on taxes; nation braces for Chauvin verdict Senate GOP faces post-Trump spending brawl MORE’s (R-S.C.) reelection bid into more competitive territory.

The nonpartisan election handicapper moved the race from its "likely" Republican column into the "lean" Republican column. That means that Graham still has the advantage, but his seat has come into play for Democrats.

A handful of factors contributed to the rating change. Harrison has nearly matched Graham dollar for dollar in fundraising this cycle, raking in $29 million to the GOP incumbent’s $30.9 million.


At the same time, the national political climate has shifted in a way that appears favorable to Harrison, a former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman and the first African American to serve in that role.

“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,” Jessica Taylor, the Senate and governor’s editor for The Cook Political Report, wrote in an analysis of the South Carolina race.

“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 ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottChauvin found guilty as nation exhales Lawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' Tim Scott: 'No question' Floyd jury reached 'the right verdict' MORE.”

Recent polling also suggests a tightening race between Graham and Harrison. A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month showed the two candidates knotted at 44 percent, and other surveys from Democratic-leaning firms found Harrison trailing Graham by narrow margins.

Graham will still be tough for Democrats to ouster. He won his last reelection bid in 2014 by nearly 16 points, and President TrumpDonald TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' MORE carried the state in 2016 by more than 14 points. 

But FiveThirtyEight’s polling average of the presidential race in South Carolina shows Trump’s lead over presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden overruled Blinken, top officials on initial refugee cap decision: report Suicide bombing hits Afghan security forces Jim Jordan, Val Demings get in shouting match about police during hearing MORE narrowing to about 6.5 points. Biden already does well with Black voters, who make up more than half of the state’s Democratic electorate, and Democrats hope that his choice of Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden says Chauvin verdict is step forward in fight against racial injustice Harris: Country must confront racial injustice after Chauvin verdict Minneapolis mayor on Floyd: 'Ultimately his life will have bettered our city' MORE (D-Calif.) as his running mate will further help boost turnout among Black voters, especially in the South.