Lindsey Graham's battle to keep Senate seat labeled 'toss-up' by influential Cook Political Report

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Sen. Lindsey Graham’s race to hold onto his seat in the one-time conservative stronghold of South Carolina has now been labeled a toss-up race by the Cook Political Report.

Cook Political Report, which is looked to for nonpartisan election analysis, recently changed its outlook on the South Carolina seat from “leans Republican” to “toss up.”

Cook calls the race the most  "surprising race" of the year. Graham, the incumbent Republican senator, is going up against Democratic upstart Jaime Harrison.

"It's a jump ball at this point," one South Carolina Republican strategist told Cook. "Jaime is peaking at exactly the right time, and he's got a deluge of money. [Harrison] is blocking every pass there is from Republicans."

Harrison and Graham are scheduled to debate Friday evening.

Graham, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and a close ally of President Trump, has held his seat for 18 years and served 10 year in the House before that. He cruised to victory in his last race in 2014 by 15 points.  Harrison, on the other hand, has never held elected office.

Still, Harrison is well-funded by Democrats to unseat the influential Republican, and he’s dominated the airwaves with ads about his life story of overcoming poverty.

Liberals are all hands on-deck for Harrison after Graham announced he’d move forward with confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before the November election.

A Republican super PAC aimed at preserving the Senate’s GOP majority announced last week they will spend $10 million on advertising in the state in a three-week blitz beginning last Saturday. The announcement came after a liberal super PAC announced it was pumping $6.5 million into advertising in support of Harrison’s campaign.

Harrison has outraised Graham in each quarter of this year, allowing him to blanket Palmetto State airwaves unlike any other. He’s spent or reserved time through Election Day on TV and digital ads of upwards of $60.3 million, according to Cook. Meanwhile, Graham has spent or reserved $20.6 million so far.

Still, the Graham campaign said their internal polling has them on track for a victory in November, noting that Graham is "fighting for every vote."

“Senator Graham is fighting for South Carolina, helping families and businesses get through the pandemic, and working to ensure a conservative Supreme Court with Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the newest member.  Meanwhile, Democrat Jaime Harrison in on his way to spending $100 million in out-of-state, liberal money in an attempt to buy a Senate seat with wall-to-wall negative ads," Graham campaign communications director T.W. Arrighi said in a statement to Fox News.

"‘Hiding Harrison’ thinks he can hide his radical views from voters and run from reporters, but South Carolinians know a liberal Democrat when they see one.," he continued.

The Harrison campaign said the race rating had changed because  Graham has changed.

“After 25 years in Washington, Lindsey has changed into someone who voters can no longer trust,” Harrison campaign spokesperson Guy King said in a statement. “Jaime Harrison’s values-driven campaign is exciting voters across the political spectrum, and addressing issues that Lindsey Graham forgot about long ago – like healthcare, broadband internet, and COVID relief for small businesses. Less than a month from election day, this movement is in a prime position to defeat Lindsey Graham and bring hope back to all 46 counties of South Carolina.”

Harrison ads have hit Graham particularly hard over health care, claiming that Graham’s plan with Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., would impose an “age tax” on older Americans by eliminating two sources of financial assistance that help make health coverage affordable.

“Lindsey Graham still supports cutting Social Security and Medicare — key lifelines for our state’s seniors, especially as the coronavirus pandemic rages on,” King said in a press release for the new ads.

Graham’s campaign calls such an assertion a “lie” designed to “scare seniors.”


“Under Senator Graham's plan, power over our health care would be taken out of the hands of Washington bureaucrats and placed in the hands of states.  In fact, Graham-Cassidy would provide South Carolina 123% more money than it receives under Obamacare,” the campaign said in a release.

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