Graham Leads Democratic Challenger in Senate Race, Poll Shows

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., listens during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday. (Shawn Thew/Pool via AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) — South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and President Donald Trump are both leading over their Democratic challengers in the Palmetto State, according to a poll released Thursday. 

The incumbent GOP senator is leading his race for reelection against Democratic rival Jaime Harrison by a margin of 46% to 40%. Trump, meanwhile, is ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden 49% to 41%.  

The New York Times/Siena College poll canvassed 605 likely voters in Republican-leaning South Carolina and found that the favorability ratings of the two Senate candidates are quite similar even though Graham holds a narrow advantage overall. 

“Graham’s is 49-45 percent and Harrison has a 47-42 percent favorability rating,” Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, said in a statement.

“By 45-37 percent, voters say Harrison is honest and trustworthy, while 49-41 percent…say Graham is not,” he added. “Graham is holding nearly nine in ten Republicans and Harrison does the same with Democrats. Harrison leads by 16 points with independents.”

This heated race has been called the fight of Graham’s political life as several polls, including one conducted by Quinnipiac University last month, had Graham and Harrison tied with about 48% support among likely voters.

Adding uncertainty to an already contentious election, 12% of registered Black voters in the state say they are still undecided. Harrison is a Black man and Biden did particularly well among Black voters in South Carolina during the Democratic primary.

“With all of that, Graham enters the final three weeks with a six-point lead,” Levy said of the candidate who has been a stalwart supporter of Trump and his policies. 

Levy explained that Graham’s role as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, currently overseeing the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, appears to be a benefit for him in his home state.

“By a 52-30 percent margin, voters support the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. And by a similar 54-33 percent margin, they say that the Senate should vote on the nomination before the election,” Levy said.

Both Graham and Trump shattered fundraising records in South Carolina this year. The president, however, has a slightly wider, 8-point advantage over his rival in the state. The pollsters found that Trump’s favorability rating in South Carolina is 54-44%, compared to Biden’s negative 45-51% rating.

South Carolina residents have opted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 1980, and Levy says Biden is facing an uphill battle despite his primary success in a state that gave Trump a 14-point victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

 “Although Biden is leading among independent voters by 10 points, and doing as well holding Democrats as Trump is doing holding Republicans, Trump has a solid eight-point lead in South Carolina, a state that supported Trump by 14 points in 2016 and has significantly more Republicans than Democrats,” he said.  

The poll, which was conducted Oct. 9-14, has a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points. 

“Trump leads by 40 points with white voters, including a 59-point lead among whites without a college degree, more than enough to offset Biden’s 80-point lead among Black voters,” Levy said. “Trump leads by 15 points with men and even has a two-point edge with women.” 

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