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 Harrison, bringing Sen. Lindsey Graham’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 Scott.”
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 Trump 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 Biden 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 Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate will further help boost turnout among Black voters, especially in the South.