Democrat 'Dirty Campaign Tricks' Against Lindsey Graham Backfire, Even Critics Rally to Graham's Defense

Anna Moneymaker/New York Times, Pool via AP

The South Carolina Senate race between Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and his opponent and former SC Democratic party chairman Jaime Harrison has turned into the national media’s 2020 version of the 2018 race between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) vs. Democrat Beto O’Rourke.

Not a day goes by where there is not a fawning puff piece or two and/or umpteen tweets from reporters and “political analysts” on how Harrison has managed to make a race most believed at the beginning of the year would not be competitive into one to watch down the homestretch.

When the Harrison campaign reported they’d raised $57 million in the third quarter, which is an all-time quarterly record for any Senate campaign (besting O’Rourke’s previous record of $38.1 million), the glee from journalists could barely be contained.

This meant, they insinuated in so many words, that there was a ton of enthusiasm in South Carolina for Harrison’s campaign in contrast to Graham’s. In reality, Harrison is only besting Graham by about a million in in-state campaign funding. Not a small amount, but in a race of this magnitude it’s a drop in the bucket in comparison to the out-of-state campaign funding edge Harrison has over Graham:

In other words, there are a lot of outsiders who want Graham gone from the Senate. Considering his staunch defenses of President Trump and his work as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, this should not exactly be a surprise. But it’s worth pointing out all the same considering the media’s deceptive insinuations about the Harrison campaign’s enthusiasm level among voters in the state.

Helping out in that department are some shady, underhanded campaign tactics not just from the Harrison campaign, but from Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer-allied PACs as well as the pseudo-Republicans at the Lincoln Project, as reported by the Politico today in a surprisingly detailed piece:

Harrison’s campaign and several Democratic outside groups opposing Graham have elevated [Constitution Party candidate Bill] Bledsoe in TV ads this month, an effort to siphon off conservative voters who may be dissatisfied with Graham, potentially boosting Harrison’s chances against the three-term senator in the deep red state.

[…]

Harrison’s campaign released an ad earlier this month saying Graham had changed after 25 years in Washington, calling Bledsoe “too conservative” by highlighting the issues of guns, abortion and support for President Donald Trump.

This week, two outside groups picked up the mantle. Duty and Country, a super PAC run by allies of Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, ran an ad Tuesday also hitting Graham as a “25-year Washington insider who attacks Trump” and featuring a clip of Graham criticizing the president during the 2016 primary. The ad identifies Harrison as a Democrat who supports Obamacare, and calls Bledsoe “too conservative, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Trump.”

The Lincoln Project, the anti-Trump group run by former Republican operatives, also ran an ad Tuesday highlighting Bledsoe as a “real-deal” conservative.

While, as Politico noted, this is not an uncommon tactic for competitive races where there are more than two candidates, what makes the Democratic campaign to paint Bledsoe as the “true conservative” (and thus siphoning votes away from Graham) especially underhanded is the fact that Bledsoe dropped out of the race at the first of the month and endorsed Graham. His name cannot be taken off the ballot, however, because he suspended his campaign after the deadline to get his name taken off the ballot had passed.

Bledsoe is understandably furious with how Democrats are using him to hurt Graham’s reelection chances, so much so that he wrote a letter this week calling on the Harrison campaign and other “radical liberals” to “cease and desist” from using his name in campaign ads. “I am no longer running for the U.S. Senate, and any effort to encourage people to support me is deceptive, underhanded and wrong,” Bledsoe wrote, calling the tactics “dirty tricks:

Harrison and his campaign have indicated they are not sorry in any way for what they’re doing, which further infuriated South Carolina Republicans – including some who have been critical of Graham off and on over the years. As a result, even Graham’s conservative Republican critics in the state are rallying around him:

In a bid to unify Republicans in South Carolina behind U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s reelection campaign, several top conservative activists who have long expressed hostility towards the incumbent are encouraging their supporters to vote for him to avoid an upset victory for Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison.

[…]

A group of longtime conservative critics of Graham also held a news conference Wednesday in Greenville, a day after Vice President Mike Pence campaigned for Graham in the area, warning their supporters against risking a Harrison victory by either voting for Bledsoe, writing in another candidate or not voting in the Senate race.

The article quoted Greenville Tea Party chairman Pressley Stutt, Michael LaPierre (who finished second in the GOP Senate primary there), and South Carolina conservative talk show host Bob McClain among those urging SC voters to reject Harrison’s tactics and vote for Graham, regardless of the disagreements they’ve had with Graham.

“Several of us have had many differences of opinion with Sen. Graham over the years, but this is not a time for us to be (quibbling) over those differences of opinion that we’ve had in the past because Sen. Graham is in the race for his life,” the Post and Courier quoted Stutts as saying.

Though Graham has been out-fundraised by Harrison, he does have more cash on hand at this stage in the contest, as noted below via Open Secrets:

Though Graham was a big critic of Trump’s in 2016, he really has emerged as one of his most prominent defenders. And even though there are some promises he’s made as far as investigations go that he hasn’t delivered on, one thing I will never forget about Graham is his passionate defense of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. He was sincerely and genuinely outraged at what Democrats tried to do to him, and as a result he made it a point to be front and center in defense of Amy Coney Barrett, too, to ward off Democrat smear campaigns against her.

In my view, that’s exactly who South Carolina voters need back in the U.S. Senate.

But I am just over the border here in NC, so I don’t get a say in that race. We’ll find out next week if GOP voters and conservative Democrats in the state allow Graham to overcome the dishonest Democratic tactics being used to try and defeat him. Stay tuned.