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Graham fends off Harrison to secure reelection in SC

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSenators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Trump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair MORE (R-S.C.) on Tuesday defeated Democratic nominee Jaime HarrisonJaime HarrisonTom Perez 'taking a look' at run for Maryland governor Democrats formally elect Harrison as new DNC chair Democrats see Georgia as model for success across South MORE, securing a fourth term.

The Associated Press called the race for Graham shortly before 10 p.m. ET.

Graham’s win fends off a Democratic upset, as the red state emerged as a late toss-up battle amid record fundraising.

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Graham, 65, has done a 180 since 2016, going from a vocal critic of President TrumpDonald TrumpBlinken holds first calls as Biden's secretary of State Senators discussing Trump censure resolution Dobbs: Republicans lost in 2020 because they 'forgot who was the true leader' MORE — whom he once called a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” — to one of his strongest allies in the Senate.

Graham’s transformation and his two-year stint as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman helped make him a top target for Democrats but also fended off what, before the Trump era, was expected to be a nasty primary challenge from the right.

Even with Trump expected to win South Carolina handily, the president outpaces Graham in terms of support from GOP voters — a dynamic Democrats believed they could capitalize on by also trying to peel off independent voters. 

Harrison was able to bring in eye-popping fundraising hauls, helping fuel a closer-than-expected race and prompting warnings from Graham in the final weeks that he was getting “killed financially” by a Democratic wave of cash. 

Political handicappers rated the race as either a toss-up or leaning toward Republicans. The Cook Political Report’s Jessica Taylor told the "Axios Today" podcast that while they ranked as South Carolina one of seven toss-ups, “I think this one is the toughest” for Democrats.

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And Graham appeared to get a late boost from the fight over Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettRubio reintroduces amendment to block court packing Undoing Trump will take more than executive orders Political peace starts with everyday interactions MORE’s Supreme Court nomination. A New York Times poll released as Barrett’s four-day hearing wrapped found that Graham polled better by the end of the hearing than he did at the beginning. 

Graham said roughly a week before the Nov. 3 election that he believed Barrett was an asset in his race given South Carolina’s red leanings.

“How do you say yes? Yes,” Graham said, asked if Barrett helped him in the final stretch. “I feel good about it.”