New Poll Purports To Show Lindsey Graham Vulnerable To Democratic Challenger

A new poll shows Senator Lindsey Graham vulnerable to a Democratic challenge next year, but there are several caveat.

A new poll purports to show that Lindsey Graham could well be vulnerable to an upstart Democratic challenger in 2020, but it ought to be taken with a grain of salt:

A Change Research-Post and Courier poll released Friday shows that longtime Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has just a 2-point lead on his Democratic challenger.

In the left-leaning poll, 47 percent of likely general election voters said that they would vote for Graham, 45 percent said that they would vote for Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison and 9 percent said that they were undecided.

Graham did not poll exceptionally high in favorability, with 38 percent of respondents viewing him very or somewhat favorably, and 53 percent of respondents viewing him very or somewhat unfavorably.

The poll had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

More from the poll itself:

Senator Lindsey Graham has a low favorability rating among likely South Carolina general election voters, with 38% of respondents viewing him very or somewhat favorably, and 53% of respondents viewing him very or somewhat unfavorably. 7% of respondents were neutral and 2% of respondents had never heard of him. In particular, Senator Graham fares poorly among Independents, with 60% of Independents viewing him very or somewhat unfavorably and only 28% viewing him very or somewhat favorably. 9% were neutral and 3% had never heard of him.

President Trump has higher favorability numbers than Senator Graham. 51% of likely South Carolina general election voters view President Trump very or somewhat favorably, while 46% of respondents view him very or somewhat unfavorably. 2% of respondents were neutral and 0% of respondents had never heard of him. Among Independents, 51% view him very or somewhat unfavorably and 41% view him very or somewhat favorably. 7% were neutral and 1% had never heard of him.

Senator Graham also does poorly in a generic match-up. 38% of likely general election voters say they will definitely or probably vote for Senator Graham, 53% of respondents say they will definitely or probably vote for someone else, and 10% are not sure.

In comparison, 54% of respondents say they will definitely or probably vote for President Trump, 43% of respondents say they will definitely or probably vote for the Democratic candidate, and 3% say they will vote for a third party candidate.

Finally, Senator Graham leads the Democratic candidate for US Senate, Jaime Harrison, by just 2 points. 47% of likely general voters saying they will vote for Graham, 45% saying they will vote for Harrison, and 9% of voters are still undecided.

If this poll is anywhere close to accurate, it’certainly puts the South Carolina Senate race between Graham and seemingly default Democratic nominee Jamie Harrison, who I wrote about earlier this week, in a different light.

As I noted in the initial post, Graham’s electoral history and South Carolina’s political history make it unlikely that a Democrat could win statewide in a Presidential election year. This, after all, is the same Lindsey Graham who was first elected to the Senate in 2002 in an election in which he beat his Democratic challenger by ten points and nearly 120,000 votes. Six years later in 2008, he won his first re-election fight by nearly 15 points and 200,000 votes. Most recently, in 2014, he won by nearly 16 points and 200,000 votes. Moreover, this is the same state that President Trump won by 300,000 votes and 14 points in 2016 and it is likely he will win again in 2020 by a similar margin. Additionally, it has been 27 years since a Democrat won a statewide election for Senate, and 21 years since a Democratic candidate won a statewide race for Governor. Taking all this into account the idea that a Democrat is suddenly viable against Graham in a year when the President is likely to win the state by double digits is hard to believe.

In addition to this electoral history, there’s the fact that other recent polling that shows Graham with a fairly strong lead over Harrison. The most recent poll before this one, for example, gave Graham a 23-point lead over Harrison. Granted, that poll was taken in mid-October but it seems odd that the state of the race would change that significantly in such a relatively short period of time. It’s possible I suppose, but taking into account the kind of state South Carolina is politically, it just seems to be darn unlikely.

So let’s keep an eye on this race, but if you’re not a fan of Graham, and in the wake of his transformation into a Trumpist sycophant there certainly seem to be plenty of those, I would not make too much of this single poll unless it is corroborated by others further down the line.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Congress, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    To get to Harrison, Graham has to first secure the Republican nomination. Once that’s securely in hand I expect Lindsey will become the most reasonable of men. Or at least spend a lot of money and effort to appear so.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    A couple points:

    1) No, I don’t believe it. Yet.

    2) But that said, this Lindsey Graham is not the Lindsey Graham voters re-elected.

    3) Time for some well-funded oppo research – without the input of foreign governments, because I’m an American not a cultie. Graham went overnight from rational to pathetic: someone’s got a hold on him. I suspect Graham has a dead girl, live boy issue. I’ll bet my next donut some Graham campaign money found its way into the hands of someone with a secret.

  3. @Michael Reynolds:

    The only real question is the extent to which this Lindsey Graham is reflecting the politics of his state. I suspect he’s reflecting it quite well.

  4. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Well, that or South Carolina has become so ardently pro-Trump that anything less than slavish devotion to him is career suicide.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    without the input of foreign governments

    ,
    You provide an opportunity to stress a small point. It’s perfectly legal and ethical for a campaign to hire a foreign contractor to do a job of work and pay them for it. It is unethical, and clearly illegal, for a campaign to accept a thing of value donated by a foreign entity. It is way, way bad to solicit such a thing in return for performing your official duties.. The first is Fusion GPS, the second was at least attempted in the Trump Tower meeting, the third is Ukraine, which is clearly solicitation of a bribe.

    This seems obvious, but these distinctions seem lost on many people.

  6. mattbernius says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Graham went overnight from rational to pathetic: someone’s got a hold on him. I suspect Graham has a dead girl, live boy issue.

    Michael, I think your writing instincts (mixed with an interpretation of the way Graham, shall we say, “presents”) are getting the best of you here. I think the far more likely (if disappointing answer) is that this has always been who Graham is.

    He’s been an elected official for more than a quarter of a century. He likes being a senator and the priviliage it brings. So, first and foremost he’s going to do anything he can to protect that. And he knows he can’t win in SC by crossing the President.

    I also suspect he sees himself as the hero of his story and falls into the “I’m curving Trump’s most dangerous impulses – especially on the Foreign Policy front.” And he knows that to be able to do that, he needs to be all in. He learned that lesson from Rand Paul and I would be willing to be that most of this (beyond staying in office) is to try and lessen Paul’s impact on Trump’s foreign policy.

    The other key thing here was the death of John McCain – his external conscience. It’s not a coincidence that Graham’s transition to loyal solider during the Kavanaugh hearings happened within a month of burying his closest friend.

    All of that points to that this was a willing conversion (and one that Graham I’m sure would say was done for the good of the country). It’s who he always was. Which is unsatisfying (especially to those who wanted to believe the he was better than that – it’s a reminder that under the right circumstances, lots of “rational” folks will make the same choice).

    Aside: I can’t help wondering where McCain would have netted out on this if he was alive now (but still struggling with cancer and knowing he wouldn’t run again). I think that *might* have complicated the calculus in the Senate. But I also fear, that like Graham, when the chips were down McCain would have closed rank.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    @mattbernius:
    Possibly. But coming at things from a writer’s POV also made clear who Trump was, earlier than most, ditto the prediction that his followers would be a cult, indifferent to all his crimes, up to and including treason.

    I’ve been frustrated by the time it’s taken normal people to see what was obvious not just to me, but to anyone who deals with characters. On balance the arts community was much quicker to understand both him and his culties than our more STEMie friends were. STEM folks don’t have an intuitive grasp of crazy, they’re too rational. We in lit/art/theater/movie/TV etc are much more in that world.

    @Doug Mataconis: @CSK:
    Then why isn’t his approval rating higher? To be clear, I don’t think blackmail is a necessary component of Graham’s groveling, that’s speculation. But there have long been questions about Graham’s sexuality. He’s my age but never married, and with no reported romantic attachments. He may be asexual. He may just be the only powerful man to be unable to attract a mate. Or he may be hiding something, quite likely something he wouldn’t have to hide if he weren’t such a coward.

    Trump by way of his association with the National Enquirer would have whatever they had – if anything – on Graham. Graham spearheaded efforts to trash his lifelong fiend, Joe Biden. Maybe Graham’s just a garden variety piece of sht. But it feels like leverage to me.

  8. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    It would have to be something pretty damning. Graham’s constituents, who are obviously pretty conservative overall, don’t seem to care how he spends his free time. Even if they suspect him of a few discreet same-sex affairs, they’re not getting excited about it.

    It’s hard, nowadays, to keep really sordid stuff hidden.

    .

  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    In 1995 Graham picked up a black male prostitute who proved to be under age. (Not really.)

    That’s all it would take in South Carolina. He’d be primaried. And his carefully-constructed public image would be destroyed.

  10. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    On balance the arts community was much quicker to understand both him and his culties than our more STEMie friends were. STEM folks don’t have an intuitive grasp of crazy, they’re too rational. We in lit/art/theater/movie/TV etc are much more in that world.

    Maybe this is true as a generalization, but I had been sober before trump’s election, and that night fell off the wagon for a solid two months.

  11. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    And if Graham had done that, we’d know it by now.

  12. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I seriously think it’s just that they threatened to out Lindsey Graham as gay, and he actually doesn’t know everyone else has already figured that out.

  13. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Cult45 refers to Graham as “Miss Lindsey,” but they don’t seem bothered by it as long as he stays in Trump’s corner.

    That’s why I think that the most important factor is utter allegiance to Trump. Graham isn’t stupid. He knows what side his bread is buttered on.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    STEM folks don’t have an intuitive grasp of crazy, they’re too rational.

    Yeah, I think you are off base here. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. All the science types I know were rabidly anti-Trump and generally anti-Republican. They know Republican officials are frighteningly anti-science and their hostility to reality is a near and present danger. They immediately viewed Trump as the apotheosis of the party.

    Technology types are more varied but given that Trump is profoundly uncool and the Tech field is littered with wankers who think they are amazingly cool (in a Zaphod Beeblebrox kind of way), I don’t think many were optimistic that things would be ok. Math, well, I don’t know enough math types to have an opinion. Engineering, I do know. I’ve been studying or practicing in the Engineering field for 40+ years and there is a surprising amount of creationists, conspiracy theorists and various other kooks in this field. Engineers are not scientists. But I am not atypical either and I called out Trump early and often and repeatedly warned about the danger of giving the nuke codes to a clownish manikin with so much of what is human missing from his cranium.

  15. Stormy Dragon says:

    @MarkedMan:

    As an engineer: while the general public sees science and engineering as being the same thing, the reality is they are in many ways polar opposites of each other. Both require in depth knowledge of how the physical world operates, their approach to that knowledge is very different.

    Scientists enjoy knowledge for it’s own sake. They find the unknown exciting because it’s a chance to discover new knowledge for the first time.

    Engineers enjoy knowledge because it’s useful for accomplishing some other goal. They find the unknown scary because it can’t be planned or controlled and is the source of accidents.

  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Dark Secret: I find his personality repellent, but as a bisexual man, I actually find Lindsey Graham kinda sexy from a purely physical appearance point.

  17. CSK says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Your secret is safe with us. 😀
    Actually, I’ve known several women who believe Graham would make a fine pal.

  18. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: As a retired Mechanical Engineer I’ll second your comments. I haven’t known enough scientists to have an opinion but I think you’re right that techies have some anti-Trump bias based more on cool than policy. Engineers are the product of a narrow education. I chose to take a lot of electives in school and have always tried to read widely. Most engineers don’t.

  19. mattbernius says:

    @MarkedMan:

    I’ve been studying or practicing in the Engineering field for 40+ years and there is a surprising amount of creationists, conspiracy theorists and various other kooks in this field.

    FWIW, this has been my experience too. Most hard core STEM conservatives I know are from the “E” branch. I also find then too be the worst when it comes to climate science.

  20. CSK says:

    @gVOR08: I don’t know whether this is still true, but in the 1980s students at the Tufts University School of Engineering were exempted (unlike every other student) from taking freshman English. And they probably could have used it more than any others.

  21. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Graham went overnight from rational to pathetic: someone’s got a hold on him. I suspect Graham has a dead girl, live boy issue.

    I think you’re making a mistake of assuming there is only one reason, and that people are rational actors who understand their reasons.

    It might be as simple as blackmail, but it also might just be as simple as wanting to belong, and now feeling like he has to demonstrate his bona fides to be accepted into the party. I think the latter is more likely. (Graham so obviously has skeletons in his closet that I find it hard to believe someone would have just started blackmailing him now).

    Look at James Joyner, since we have all watched his evolution here for ages — how long did it take him to stop reflexively supporting Republicans as they went further and further from his beliefs? Years, and he still rationalizes large chunks away and thinks that if they just went back to Mitt Romney it wouldn’t be so bad. His sense of identity and his beliefs were increasingly in conflict, and in the end he went with his beliefs but that was not a foregone result. It speaks well of him that he didn’t just sigh quietly to himself and become a Trumper.

    Graham is likely just the guy who chose identity over beliefs. And there would have been countless reasons pushing him one way or the other while he balanced on that knife’s edge, from his obvious gayness, to the conspiracy theories he saw on tv, to the death of John McCain (both the loss of a friend, and the realization that when he dies there will not be that outpouring).

    You paint yourself as much more rational than most people, but I think that a lot of it is that you just don’t have as strong of a biological need to belong. I think that’s why you don’t “get” religion, by the way — it fills a need that you don’t have, and which you don’t understand as a need.

  22. MarkedMan says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Well put

  23. Sleeping Dog says:

    Andrew Sullivan’s nickname for Graham, is Butters. Curious that it meant what I thought it did, I asked a gay friend, he smiled and said it did. The rumors about Graham have long been known and he keeps getting reelected, so it is doubtful that a simple outing would put him in danger. Being caught in a raid of a bathhouse, maybe, but those don’t happen any longer,

    Could this be a much closer election for him than in the past, quite likely, but he’ll be reelected.

  24. al Ameda says:

    President Trump has higher favorability numbers than Senator Graham. 51% of likely South Carolina general election voters view President Trump very or somewhat favorably, while 46% of respondents view him very or somewhat unfavorably. 2% of respondents were neutral and 0% of respondents had never heard of him. Among Independents, 51% view him very or somewhat unfavorably and 41% view him very or somewhat favorably. 7% were neutral and 1% had never heard of him.

    Lindsey is smart enough to know that if his approval numbers stay underwater relative to Trump’s approval numbers in South Carolina, then his re-election is at risk.

    As with all things Republican these days principle is not in play. Trump has made EVERTHING transactional, and Lindsey is for the time being, amoral and unprincipled.

  25. Gustopher says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    The rumors about Graham have long been known and he keeps getting reelected, so it is doubtful that a simple outing would put him in danger.

    Well, Graham is one of the “good” gays who isn’t forcing his sexuality down anyone’s throats… Any boyfriends he has are all discrete, and he never makes the mistake of flaunting his sin in public for all to see by allowing them to be seen. No pictures on his desk, no use of the word “we”, etc. You know… he’s respectable.

    No one who sees Graham ever has to have an uncomfortable conversation with their 12 year old about how some people don’t hate gay people.

    On the other hand, if he is gay, wouldn’t he have insisted upon being called by a more masculine nickname? Senator Lindsey “Butch” Graham. Or something.

    It’s a mystery.

  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Unfortunately, I’m afraid that as more and more of his dreams about society become dashed on the shoals of reality–Trump isn’t going to resign and flee, he won’t be convicted (and yes, we all knew this but look at all the rants about Mitch’s comments of a day or so ago), he’s as likely to win in 202o as not, and he won’t be charged with any crimes in NY after he leaves office anyway (I really hope I’m wrong about this, but I only see civil penalties in his future, if any at all)–his posting are going to become more monotonous and angry than they’ve been in a long time. I’ve stopped reading more than the first sentence or two of his screeds. Too tired of the schtick.

  27. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Andrew Sullivan’s nickname for Graham, is Butters. Curious that it meant what I thought it did, I asked a gay friend, he smiled and said it did.

    I always assumed it was a reference to Leopold “Butters” Stauch on South Park

  28. Andrew says:

    Maybe be if so many red/south states were not such a drain on the states subsidizing them.

    I wonder what would happen if we just cut off that..if they want to vote in a dictatorship because of a big daddy fetish. Or bitterness or both. If the state votes for that. And wants to see this country fail forever.
    Peel off these parasites when Dems get a super majority.

    Want to celebrate your confederate heritage? Do it on your own dime, leeches.

    “ The states receiving the most from Washington on a per capita basis tend have relatively large poor populations that depend on federal assistance programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and Medicaid.

    Virginia.
    Kentucky.
    New Mexico.
    West Virginia.
    Alaska.
    Mississippi.
    Alabama.
    Maryland.”

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/economy/2019/03/20/how-much-federal-funding-each-state-receives-government/39202299/

  29. MarkedMan says:

    @Andrew: FWIW I think Maryland and Virginia are on that list due to special circumstances. DC is actually tiny, so much of Federal Government spills over into those two states.

  30. reid says:

    @Andrew: Hey now. New Mexico is not a southern state or a confederate state. Yeah, it’s poor, but it’s also pretty solidly blue these days.