Few would have thought this close to the November 2020 election that Lindsey Graham, one of President Donald Trump’s closest supporters, would be in the race of his political career. Even more thought provoking, is that in the Southern state of South Carolina, the competitor snapping at Graham’s heels is a young 41-year-old African-American male. Meet Jaime Harrison.
South Carolina is a very red state. In 2016, President Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton there by 14 percentage points and is easily favored to win again in November. South Carolinians haven’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1998. However, even with the odds stacked against him, Harrison keeps closing in on Graham.
Raised by a single mother in Orangeburg, S.C., Harrison won a high school election and caught the attention of S.C, Rep. James Clyburn. An ambitious mentee, Harrison won a scholarship to Yale, where he graduated in political science, then went on to Georgetown for his law degree.
Mostly because he’s running against Graham, money poured into Harrison’s campaign. In the most recent quarter he raised almost $14 million, an astonishing sum for such a small state, but one that Graham has easily matched. While the money helps, what Harrison really needs is a perfect tsunami at the polls.
A memo released by Harrison’s campaign in early February laid out a clear, if ambitious, path to victory. He planned to register a quarter of eligible African Americans, mobilize “new and inconsistent” voters of color and “persuade White suburban voters who are already moving away from Republicans.” Harrison was also counting on some Republicans to abandon Graham for more conservative candidates. About 6.6% of voters chose Libertarian or independent candidates over Graham six years ago, and there are similar candidates on the ballot this year who could help Harrison’s cause.
He needs South Carolina’s Black voters to turn out in large numbers. Although a third of South Carolina’s 3.37 million voters are non-White, the state also has more than 400,000 unregistered voters of color, according to the progressive data company Catalist.
He also needs to attract independents, turnout young people, and flip women voters, many of whom were turned off by Graham’s behavior at the Kavanaugh hearings.
Certainly, Graham is helping Harrison’s cause with his unwavering allegiance to Trump, whom he once called a quack, with more and more South Carolinians wondering what happened to their formerly moderate senator.
Finally Harrison should benefit from the excitement about the historic Biden/Harris ticket and the decrease in popularity of the president, even in South Carolina.