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Opinion Lindsey Graham whines about Jaime Harrison’s cheddar

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has asked for campaign contributions during eight separate appearances over the past three weeks on Fox News. (Video: The Washington Post)

Poor Sen. Lindsey “the good old days of segregation” Graham (R-S.C.). He’s gone from begging for money on Fox News to openly complaining about his anemic reelection fundraising at the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Can’t say that I blame him. If my Democratic opponent set a record by raising $57 million in the last quarter, I’d cry the blues, too.

“I don’t know what’s going on out there, but I can tell you there’s a lot of money been raised in this campaign,” Graham said in the leadup to a question about the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed unlimited corporate money to flood into politics. “I’d like to know where the hell some of it’s coming from.” The haul by Jaime Harrison, the former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, is the most raised by a Senate candidate in U.S. history.

Jaime Harrison is chasing Lindsey Graham like a cheetah running down an impala

Graham has moaned that people outside the Palmetto State are funding Harrison’s campaign. His communications director told CNBC in July, “Jaime Harrison’s campaign is completely bankrolled by out-of-state liberals who hate Senator Graham.” That came as a surprise to Benjamin Edwards.

“Much of the money is coming from South Carolinians who cannot stand what Lindsey Graham has become,” Edwards told me. “I once volunteered to support Sen. Graham and admired him. Now, I’m donating to Jaime Harrison’s campaign.” Edwards teaches law at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and he went to college with the son of Miss Sylvia, whose voting plan I wrote about in August.

(By the way, Miss Sylvia and her friends safely cast their absentee ballots in person last week after not receiving their ballots by the promised delivery date.)

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Graham can’t dismiss losing the support of someone like Edwards. “I was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1981 and into a family that came to America around 1740. My first known relative to live in South Carolina was born in America in 1747,” Edwards recounted. “My brother, grandparents, and generations of other relatives lie dead in South Carolina’s soil.”

In college, Edwards supported Republican candidates, even going door to door for office seekers like Graham because “I believed they had principles,” he said. “For a time, I believed that Lindsey Graham had the judgment and strength we needed in a senator. I was wrong.”

PODCAST: Think no one can defeat Lindsey Graham? 'Watch me!' says Jaime Harrison

“I used to listen to Lindsey Graham and nod my head along. Now I realize that although he excels at sassy soundbites, he lacks the strength to stand up for what matters,” Edwards said. “Consider his friendship with the late John McCain and the way he stood limply by while President Trump insulted him. In the South Carolina I come from, we stand up for our friends.”

That echoes what Harrison told me in February about a focus group he observed in Charleston, S.C., where he said a woman remarked, “I’m bothered by the fact that Lindsey Graham did not stand up for his friend John McCain.… If he won’t stand up for his best friend then what will he do for me?” Graham’s transformation into a Trump enabler has mystified many South Carolinians for a while. “He was every Democrats’ favorite Republican in South Carolina. Pragmatic, consensus builder, get things done,” was how Steve Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, S.C., described Graham when we talked politics late last year. “We just don’t recognize Senator Graham anymore.”

Edwards had a theory on Graham’s about-face. “Perhaps Graham believes that by publicly submitting to Trump, he can rein in his worst impulses,” Edwards said. But he went on to note: “Graham didn’t stop President Trump from abandoning our Kurdish allies. He did not stop Trump from turning federal forces on unarmed protesters to clear a path for a photo opportunity.”

A new ad makes the case against Lindsey Graham with Graham doing all the talking

In a state that Trump won by 14 points in 2016, Harrison shouldn’t be competitive with Graham. The latest Quinnipiac poll has the race at a tie. Earlier this month, the influential Cook Political Report moved the contest from “Lean Republican” to “Toss Up.” One glimmer of hope for Graham is that the latest Morning Consult poll of likely voters in the state shows Graham opening a six-point lead. No doubt Graham is getting a boost from plowing ahead with the Barrett hearings. But it’s only a glimmer.

“When you hear that Jaime Harrison has out-of-state donors, you need to know that many of us come from South Carolina and want the best for our nation and our home state,” Edwards said. “If other states also turn out their do-nothing Republican senators, having Jaime Harrison in the Senate would give South Carolina a real seat at the table.”

So, if Graham wants to know “where the hell” some of Harrison’s campaign money is coming from, he can look to Edwards and others in the Palmetto diaspora. They don’t live in South Carolina anymore, but their ties are deep. And they’ll do whatever it takes to help the folks back home.

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