Shape-shifting U.S. senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has a real problem on his hands this November. In addition to facing a well-funded Democratic rival in the form of ex-state party chairman Jaime Harrison – he is struggling with a pervasive lack of support from voters within his own party.
Graham received an underwhelming 67.6 percent of the Republican vote in the June 2020 GOP primary election.
“In a competitive race against a credible, well-funded rival such a number would have represented stirring victory,” we wrote at the time.
But Graham was not facing a credible, well-funded rival. He was facing “a trio of virtually unknown, practically penniless opponents,” as we pointed out in our coverage.
Graham’s biggest problem? His nakedly political, whiplash-inducing, cravenly opportunistic relationship with U.S. president Donald Trump – which was masterfully exploited in a recent television advertisement from the political action committee Lindsey Must Go.
Take a look …
(Click to view)
(Via: Lindsey Must Go)
That is brutal … and brilliant (oh, and Republican groups irked with Graham have produced similarly effective spots).
Graham’s self-serving conversion from #NeverTrumper to Trump apologist may have staved off defeat in the Republican primary this year – but it has left him exceedingly vulnerable (on multiple fronts) in the November general election.
Republican voters – conservative and liberal – simply do not trust him.
In the immortal words of Rod Tidwell from Jerry Maguire, they have “been to the puppet show and seen the strings.”
And while we suspect a big chunk of the 32.4 percent of South Carolina GOP voters who rejected Graham in June will hold their noses and support him against Harrison … many will not.
Many of them will not vote … or more specifically, they will not vote for Graham.
And that dynamic could lead to serious problems for dozens of other Republican candidates in various down-ballot races in South Carolina this fall.
Allow us to explain …
South Carolina is one of six states in America which allows for straight ticket voting (along with Alabama, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Oklahoma). In other words, voters in these states can press one button to select the entire slate of Republican candidates on the ballot.
And make no mistake, if there was ever a straight ticket election: 2020 is it.
Political polarization was already at an all-time high, and the economic collapse resulting from the coronavirus pandemic (and its societal lockdowns) has mingled with racial unrest and mob violence to further stoke these divisions.
We personally believe the “red team” versus “blue team” electoral narrative is an echo not a choice (to borrow a phrase from the late Phyllis Schlafly). And we believe this is especially true in South Carolina, which has become the most liberal red state in America under “Republican” rule.
“Anyone who pulls a straight ticket for either of the major parties needs to have their head examined,” we wrote in a column back in 2016.
But with government committed to keeping the population dumbed down, straight ticket voting in the Palmetto State has remained extremely popular. In any given election, between 44-48 percent of Republicans and 49-51 percent of Democrats vote straight ticket – which usually accounts for roughly a third of all ballots cast.
We believe GOP frustration with Graham has the potential to drive down straight ticket voting amongst South Carolina Republicans in 2020. With so many GOP voters disinclined to support him under any circumstances, the straight ticket button is likely to be much less fashionable with Republican voters this fall.
We wonder: How many GOP voters will cast their ballot for Trump and then leave the rest of their 2020 slate blank?
Or … how many will press the straight ticket button and then “uncheck” the box for Graham’s race?
Such decisions could have a huge impact on any number of competitive state legislative races (here and here) – potentially depriving dozens of GOP candidates of straight ticket votes they would have otherwise received had Graham not been on the ballot.
Bottom line? It may not be decisive, but Graham’s “straight ticket problem” has the potential to hurt a lot of Republicans at the ballot box this fall. It also has the potential to negate the value of any “coattails” Trump might have provided to these candidates.
Stay tuned … we look forward to parsing this data after all the votes are counted, but our hunch is that Graham’s struggles are likely to seep down to numerous other races.
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