Are Lindsey Graham’s days in the Senate numbered? That’s apparently the hope of South Carolina Democrats, who see Graham’s recent rise as an ardent defender of President Trump’s policies as an opportunity to replace him. Or at least that’s the take of former state Democratic Party chair Jaime Harrison, who is reportedly hoping to take a run at Graham’s seat next year. (Washington Times)
Sen. Lindsey Graham’s emergence as President Trump’s horse whisperer has likely helped cement his position among South Carolina Republicans — but Democrats say it’s created an opening for them to take his seat in 2020.
It would be a stunning upset in a solidly red state, where Mr. Graham won last time with 55 percent of the vote.
But Democrats say the senator appears to be grasping at Mr. Trump’s coattails in a bid for attention that has undercut his reputation as a maverick and could potentially cost him the support of crossover Democrats and middle-of-the-road independents.
Harrison’s theory seems a bit weak when you dig into the details. We can first look at the basic premise he’s basing this on. Donald Trump is unpopular and Graham’s unabashed support for him could drag him down to the point where he’s vulnerable. But are either of those things true?
As of last November, Trump’s approval rating in South Carolina was higher than his national average (while still slightly underwater). Also, while Lindsey Graham was a major Trump critic during the campaign and in the early days of the administration, after going to bat for Trump repeatedly, Graham’s own approval numbers climbed from 45% to 49% in the same period.
Then there’s the question of just how much of a Trump sycophant Graham actually is. If that’s the argument Harrison is trying to make, he has a lot of history to overcome. Graham spent much of his time trashing the President during the first two years of the administration. He battled him on the decision to pull out of Syria. His close ties to John McCain (when the latter was also butting heads with Trump) earned him criticism from the White House. But when Trump was appointing conservative court nominees or working on stronger border security, Graham was cheering him on.
Is any of this shocking? Those are areas where Graham has always been a vocal proponent of conservative policies. And he’s far more of a hawk than Trump, so it’s not shocking that they would be at odds over Syria. In other words, Lindsey Graham is just supporting the same positions that he has for years. When Trump does things he agrees with, Graham supports him. When he veers in the other direction, the Senator starts throwing stones.
Harrison and the Democrats in South Carolina don’t care much for Lindsey Graham. This is nothing new. But he’s survived tough challenges before. Frankly, I’ll be quite shocked if 2020 sees the Senator moving out of his office.