Lindsey Graham may be in *deep* trouble

“There has been no more surprising race on the Senate map than South Carolina. Even early this year, it looked like Sen. Lindsey Graham would cruise to re-election. Instead, the Republican incumbent finds himself in a tied race in both public and private surveys with challenger Jaime Harrison, who has proven to be perhaps Democrats’ best recruit and a fundraising behemoth.”

Which is all true.

Graham started off the 2020 election cycle as one of the safest of Republican incumbents, sitting in a state Trump had won by 14 points in 2016 and coming off a 2014 reelection race in which he cruised to a 17-point victory.

Interactive: 2020 Senate ratings
In fact, to the extent there was any concern for Graham coming into 2020, it was in the Republican primary, as some base voters were still leery of his longtime and close association with the late Sen. John McCain and the duo’s willingness to buck party orthodoxy. But Graham had seemed to put much of that worry to bed with a transparent flip-flop from major Trump critic when they both sought the 2016 Republican nomination to one of the President’s most loyal and fierce defenders over his first term. (Graham himself has explained his, um evolution, as entirely driven by a desire for political relevancy.)
That strategy worked in the primary. Unlike 2014, when Graham faced six opponents — including state Rep. Nancy Mace, who is now the party’s nominee in the competitive 1st district — only three other Republicans filed against him this year and Graham dispatched them easily.
Latest Senate and House ratings are good news for Democrats

At which point Graham was almost certainly patting himself on the back for ensuring a fourth term. But what he didn’t count on was that his transformation from independent Republican to Trump toady would turn him into enemy No. 1 for Democrats around the country. Or that Harrison, a former state party chairman, would turn into one of the best candidates for Democrats in the country.

Both things, of course, happened. Harrison, according to the Cook Report, will spend more than $60 million on his TV campaign before the race is over — three times the total that Graham is expected to spend. As of the end of June, the last time he was required to submit a fundraising report, Harrison had raised $29 million and had more than $10 million in the bank. And, money is literally pouring into Harrison’s at the moment as he raised $1 million on back-to-back days in mid-September, according to the Associated Press.
Harrison’s air assault has paid major dividends. While polling showed him behind Graham by double digits earlier this year, the three polls conducted in the race in September showed the race tied twice and Graham ahead by 1 in the other survey.
The X factor in the race, which neither Harrison nor Graham can truly control, is how Trump (and former Vice President Joe Biden) perform at the top of the ticket in South Carolina. No one expects Trump to win by 14 as he did in 2016. The question is how much (or how little) does he win by? The data is somewhat conflicting. A Quinnipiac University poll from the end of September showed the race at Trump 48%, Biden 47%. But a CBS News/You Gov survey had Trump ahead by 10 — and was in the field just before the Q poll. Another Quinnipiac poll from earlier in the month showed Trump up on Biden by 6 points.

That’s a pretty wide range — and could make the difference between Graham winning or losing. If Trump wins South Carolina by a point or two, that’s great news for Harrison’s chances. If Trump wins by 8 or more, he may well drag Graham across the line with a victory.

What’s abundantly clear here is that Graham is in deep trouble. And it’s trouble no one — including Graham — thought he would be in at this point in the 2020 election. He is in the fight of his political life, with his chances almost entirely dependent on whether his newfound best friend (aka the President of the United States) can save him.