CHARLESTON, SC – Sen. Lindsey Graham’s comments that black people can succeed without limits in South Carolina if they are conservative and that young women can excel if they follow a “traditional family structure” here made the final arguments of the costly Senate campaign.
Mr Graham, a Republican seeking his fourth Senate term, drove through South Carolina on a bus tour, begging voters not to be fooled into abandoning him. Jaime Harrison, his Democratic opponent, has called the veteran senator a relic and dominates the airwaves, fueled by record-breaking fundraising.
To Mr. Harrison, Mr. Graham’s comments on Southern Black Carolinians and women summarized what he presented as competing visions of the South, one looking back and one embracing a diverse and inclusive future.
“I think he’s a relic from 1950,” Mr. Harrison said of Mr. Graham, who led the race with modest margins in some polls.
The incumbent appears to be embracing the role Mr. Harrison had chosen him to be, pledging to defend the South Carolina status quo.
“We’re not going to let our lives and our way of life disappear on Tuesday, and that’s what’s on the ballot,” Graham told supporters at one of his weekend rallies. end, inspiring some in the crowd to raise campaign signs above their heads, face masks that hang from some of their wrists.
With Senate control at stake, every competitive race for the Senate has taken on increased importance. Republicans now hold a three-seat majority in the Senate, but the party is expected to lose at least two of those seats, while Democrats are expected to lose one. Democrats across the country have flooded South Carolina with money, motivated by Mr. Graham’s steadfast support for President Trump and his stewardship of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s lightning-quick confirmation to the Supreme Court as as president of the Judicial Committee.
But the same factors that mobilized Democrats across the country to oppose Mr. Graham were used by Mr. Graham to rally support in South Carolina, where Mr. Trump remains popular and Judge Barrett’s confirmation was celebrated .
The visions of the Senate candidates’ duel for South Carolina reflected their views on the state of the nation. Mr Graham echoed the president’s general assurances that the coronavirus would be under control without further lockdowns, hailing Mr. Trump’s first term as a success and encouraging people to ‘imagine four more years’ of the president’s policies and judicial choices.
Mr Harrison and his allies cited the spike in virus cases, struggling businesses, rising unemployment, and what Rep. James E. Clyburn, South Carolina’s dean of Democrats, called the pledge of the Trump administration to “go back on the progress this nation has made.”
Even though Mr. Graham aligned himself closely with the president in his final address to voters, he acknowledged that he was among his most vocal critics during the 2016 Republican presidential primaries.
“There are a lot of dramas, and some are self-inflicted,” he said of Mr. Trump. “But when you step back, he did a great job for the Conservative cause.”
Mr. Graham and his allies made his work on the Judiciary Committee a central part of his call for re-election, turning the names of the two new members of the Supreme Court, Justices Barrett and Brett M. Kavanaugh, into their battle cry The Strongest.
“Lindsey Graham, with the Supreme Court appointments, has proven to be a great leader. If we don’t bring him back, it will be a serious problem, ”said Mike Bales of Hanahan, SC, who attended a rally with his wife Catherine and their young son. “Our freedoms and our way of life are at stake.”
As Lin Bennett, a Republican state official, warmed up the crowd before the senator got off the bus in Charleston, she gave a similar speech. “I know some of you were disappointed with him, but he did a great job – look at the judges he puts on the courts,” Mrs. Bennett said.
Stunning to Mr Harrison over the weekend, Mr Clyburn said the Republican Senate had “helped and encouraged” the president to overlook the welfare of Americans because he had been “more concerned” with the confirmation judges as quickly as possible.
“They’ve confirmed them to lifelong dates just because they can,” he said. “Rather than worrying about people’s daily lives, they are concerned with an ideology.”
Mr Harrison, a mentee of Mr Clyburn who first contacted the congressman while in high school, tried to keep the attention closer to home.
“It’s so funny that he wants to make justice a problem,” he said of Mr. Graham. “Why doesn’t he make a problem getting the Charleston loopholes bill?” referring to a gun control law drafted to close a loophole that allowed a white supremacist with a criminal record to purchase a handgun he had used to slaughter black parishioners in the legendary Mother Emanuel Church AME of Charleston in 2015.
Pressed by Mr Trump’s judicial appointments record, Mr Harrison did not say whether he would have supported the confirmations of Judge Kavanaugh and Judge Barrett.
In a race in which an enormous amount of money was spent, the 11th hour pitch of each side sought to paint the other as beholden to special interests: Mr. Harrison’s supporters waved “For Sale” signs with Mr. Graham’s name on a drive-rally in North Charleston on Sunday; Mr Graham called Mr Harrison the preferred candidate of “New York and California”, arguing that even if his opponent opposed the postponement of police funding, some of his donors might not be.
Supporters of Every Man’s rallies said they were confident about their candidate’s chances.
“South Carolina is red to the roots,” said Beverly Owensby, former president of the South Carolina Republican Women’s Federation, who said she had traveled to Washington to support Judge Barrett’s appointment. this autumn.
Carlette Geddis, who attended one of Mr. Harrison’s events in Hollywood, South Carolina, said, “I think with Jaime we have someone who can win this election and make a difference. ” She was adorned in the colors of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the historically black sorority to which Senator Kamala Harris also belonged. “He’s local, just like Lindsey, but I watch the issues, and what Jaime talks about is what I love about my country.
Some Democrats have expressed concern over a lengthy count process or possible voter suppression in South Carolina, a state that requires government-issued photo ID to vote. Mr Harrison said on Sunday his campaign had a team of lawyers standing.
“We know the stuff of the trade the other team is going to try to do to save this race,” he said.
Mr. Graham was just ready for the end of the publicity blitz against him.