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Lindsey Graham in the close race after hugging Trump

“If we nominate Trump, we will be doomed …… and we will deserve it.” —Sen. Lindsey Graham, May 3, 2016.

“I am overwhelmed. LindseyGraham.com. Help me. They are killing me money wise. Help me. “—Sen. Lindsey Graham on Fox NewsSeptember 24, 2020.

WASHINGTON – 4 months agoSouth Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham easily won his Republican primary, and one of the great political transformations of modern times seems to be flawless. Today, he is fighting for his career.

No one personified GOP change like Graham did. He was once a fervent Trump critic whose weakness is from the right; he is considered a bit too willing to work with Democrats. For a time, his 17-year throne was seen as vulnerable to a major challenger like the far-right tea party.

Then Donald Trump becomes president, and Lindsey Graham will never be the same.

Graham exchanged his image as a pragmatic trader to become a fiery and loyal MAGA soldier. It worked. While anti-Trump Republicans were removed from Congress through primary election or retirement, Graham excelled. He is frequently seen playing golf with Trump. He helped give Trump’s candidate Brett Kavanaugh a seat in the Supreme Court despite stiff opposition. He has been raised to the powerful role of Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. In June, he won his first win without any serious challenge.

But now Graham is facing the possibility that it all will fall apart. He is fighting the same phenomenon that is hurting many Republicans in this year’s election: After four years of embracing Trump, the party could be dragged down by him. Republicans have long accepted that they will not regain the House of Representatives. Of the 23 incumbent GOP senators to be re-elected by 2020, 12 are at risk of losing their posts. Contrary to Trump’s push, many of them, like Graham, are voting below Trump. That arguably doesn’t matter in blushing South Carolina, where Republicans have held Graham’s seat for over 50 years.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

President Trump shook hands with Graham during an event on judicial confirmation at the White House, Nov. 6, 2019.

Terry Sullivan, a Republican political consultant at Firehouse Strategies, who ran Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, said: “I have long believed that Republicans embracing Trump hurt Republicans, but that doesn’t hurt Donald Trump.

Graham’s rival, Jaime Harrison, has raised $ 57 million between July and September, more than any Senate candidate, running anywhere, in history. Polls have pinpointed Harrison to astonishing distance, making it one of the state’s first near Senate races since 2004.

For more than two weeks in September, Graham took to Fox News at least five times to get viewers to donate to his campaign. Those are surreal things. “I am being financially killed. This money is because they hate my gut, ”he said in one of the appearances Foxes and friends. His appeals have become so frequent that a recent application was cut off.

South Carolina will almost certainly vote for Trump as president, but that doesn’t seem as important in 2020 as it did in 2016. Four years ago, the Republican Senate candidates in key states Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Iowa all outperformed Trump. But this year, the opposite is happening – Senate Republicans nationwide are continuously voting below the presidency.

Logan Cyrus / Getty Images

Jaime Harrison, a Democratic candidate to the Senate, October 17.

Can Graham really lose what has long been a safe red seat? Many strategists are skeptical. Sullivan ran Republican Jim DeMint’s 2004 campaign for Senate in South Carolina, the state’s last competitive race. Polls just before the election show he is tied to Democratic Party challenger Inez Tenenbaum. In the end he won with almost 10 points.

“What happens is that Republican voters are upset about who the candidate is, but then they’ll be back,” said Sullivan. “Republican numbers are down, but those people really don’t vote for Democrats. They come back and go home ”.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the situation for Graham to lose will have to involve a wild card: the candidate of a third party.

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Unfortunately for Graham, there happened to be a far-right candidate on the ballot, running a lavishly sponsored campaign run by the Democrats. Bill Bledsoe, a candidate for the Constitutional Party, did not campaign for election and denounced the campaign in his favor. But his name was on the ballot. In South Carolina, Bledsoe is being touted in TV ads and mailings sponsored by Democratic PACs and anti-Trump groups like Project Lincoln to attract votes from Graham. This South Carolina Democratic Party website is said to be offensive to the candidate because “100% support Trump, support guns, fight abortion” can be easily mistaken for Bledsoe’s own election website.

Amanda Loveday, the former executive director of the Democratic Party of South Carolina, estimates that as much as $ 15 million is being spent promoting Bledsoe’s unintentional candidacy. “It was a hoax in the Republican play, so I’m proud of the Democrats for finally doing it,” she said.

Loveday said that this election was the “perfect storm” of circumstances that could make Graham lose. She predicts that if Bledsoe can win more than 3% of the vote – he won about 2% when running for the Senate in 2016 – then Harrison has a chance. Loveday said Harrison should also have 30% of white voters and black voters who make up at least 30% of the total. That could allow Harrison to win the majority despite not getting a majority, she said.

Loveday, who previously worked with Harrison at the state party, said that many Democrats have voted for Graham in the past, but that his hugging Trump means that won’t happen this time. And while she did not expect Republicans to vote for Harrison, she said that many tough Trump fans consider Graham’s support of the president as fake and inauthentic; She believes they won’t appear for him.

“It’s the opposite of what people love about Lindsey. That is the problem. It’s the epitome of what Lindsey hasn’t had in years, ”she said. “He actually made his own bed with this one.”

In the 2016 Republican primary election, Graham described the then-Trump candidate as “dangerous”, “silly”, “stupid” and “dumb.” While campaigning in South Carolina in 2015, Trump once called him an “idiot” and then went on to give Graham’s cell phone number. The two have made peace before the election; Since then, Graham has been such a solid ally that tweeted how badly Trump beat him on the golf course.

@realDonaldTrump How badly did he hit me? I did better in the presidential race than I did today on the golf course! Very happy. Great host.

By all accounts, Harrison has carried out an impressive campaign. His ads don’t mention Trump as much as they hit Graham for his apparent transition over the past 4 years, portraying him as a lost man and not the politician he was. used to be. A campaign spokesman Harrison told BuzzFeed News they see the race as a game of wits.

Graham’s campaign politely declined a request for an interview, citing time being limited and not responding to email inquiries.

Republican strategists also see Graham’s transition to Trump as a probable weakness because many presidential supporters consider it lack of sincerity and opportunity. Joel Sawyer, the former chief executive officer of the Republican Party of South Carolina, called Harrison’s campaign “possibly the best one. [he’s] have seen running in South Carolina, quite honestly. “But he still doubts that is enough.

Sawyer says Harrison’s victory could only be the very unlikely outcome between his outperforming Obama, a large number of Trump’s voting Republicans who chose not to vote in the Senate race and Bledsoe attracts significant support as a third-party candidate – at least 5%. “I think Jaime has a path, but it’s incredibly narrow and it requires some things that never happened before,” he said.

If Graham continues, he may find himself returning to Congress with much fewer Republicans. States like Georgia and North Carolina, which used to be a solid red, are rapidly turning purple.

If there’s a reflective version of Lindsey Graham, it could be former South Carolina representative Mark Sanford. While Graham embraced Trump, Sanford continued to criticize him. While Graham became a trusted adviser to the president and his golf buddy, Sanford was the target of angry Trump tweets. And while Graham’s career has reached new heights over the past four years, featuring a lead as chairman of the Judiciary Committee on two successful Supreme Court nominations, Sanford’s has come to an end.

Trump upheld Sanford’s 2018 MAGA-branded main challenger, Katie Arrington. Despite his profile as a longtime member of Congress and former governor, Sanford lost his preliminary position. (Arrington will go on to lose the general election to Joe Cunningham, the first Democrat to win South Carolina’s No. 1 Congressional District in 40 years.)

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Sanford declined to speak publicly about Graham’s decisions, other than saying he was a clairvoyant when, in 2016, Graham predicted that Trump’s presidential nomination was made. they will lead to electoral destruction.

“Everyone has to do their own calculations, based on their beliefs and value systems,” Sanford said.

Sanford said he couldn’t see Trump or Graham lose in South Carolina. “All the money in the world doesn’t change demographics,” he said. However, he said that his party’s embrace of Trump would not only be “catastrophic” in this election, but also risk alienating a whole generation of young people.

Trump’s internal critics are now barely in Congress. People like former agent Charlie Dent and former senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake are both retired. Rep. Justin Amash left the party and became a Liberal. Sanford said that after Trump left office, he did not know what it would mean to be a Republican and those who stayed in Congress if the president died would have some time in the wilderness, where they will have to do something. -searching.

“I think we are moving toward our own political destruction, even though it requires a lot of self-defense for individual candidates in the process,” Sanford said. He noted that it didn’t work well for Republicans who refused to follow Lindsey Graham’s path and enthusiastically supported Trump. “But,” he added, “I slept comfortably at night.” ●

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