(Former South Carolina state Democratic Party chairman, Jaime Harrison’s negative ad on opponent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R))
By Jim Ellis
March 27, 2020 — A new statewide South Carolina political survey finds Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) falling into a surprisingly close race with former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison. According to the Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies firm (March 3-11; 804 likely South Carolina general election voters), Sen. Graham’s lead over Harrison has dwindled to just 47-44 percent.
Several points about this survey. First, the Brilliant Corners operation is a relatively new firm, one that we are only seeing for the first time, and the entity doesn’t even have a reliability rating from the FiveThirtyEight statistical operation that evaluates all polling firms. Therefore, little exists with which to compare their work. Second, this poll is not in line with other published data and, third, the survey was already two weeks old before publishing.
The other two surveys released this year both give Sen. Graham double digit polling margins. East Carolina University went into the field in early February (Jan. 31-Feb. 2; 1,756 registered South Carolina voters) and projected the senator to be holding a 51-38 percent lead over Harrison. NBC News/Marist College followed a couple of weeks later (Feb. 18-21; 2,382 registered South Carolina voters) and found a similar ballot test result, 54-37 percent, in the senator’s favor.
On the other hand, the national Democrats believe this is a sleeper race for them, and based upon Harrison’s prolific fundraising, they might be right. At year’s end, Harrison had raised an impressive $7.6 million with no candidate investment. That amount cost a fair amount to raise, however, as he was left with $4.7 million in his account to begin the election year.
This is a far cry from the gross amount obtained, but is still more than enough to already run a credible campaign effort in a smaller state with inexpensive media markets. Accounting for likely outside spending and considerably more that Harrison will raise, the South Carolina Senate campaign could become an “A” level race in terms of competitive effort.