From behind the safety of a transparent shield, South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison on Saturday took Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose seat Harrison hopes to turn blue in November, to task for not being a man of his word.
“Listening to Senator Graham...reminds me of playing Monopoly with my son,” Harrison said during his first of three debates in the South Carolina Senate race against the incumbent Graham, a one-time Trump detractor who adopted a different stance once the president took office. “He changes the rules every [chance] he gets.”
Harrison reminded Graham, who did not have a plexiglass shield set up in front of his podium, that he had voted to block the nomination of Merrick Garland, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama in 2016. At the time, Graham insisted he was doing it because “no judicial nominee should be considered, or approved...in the last year of an election,” continued Harrison. “Senator, you said, ‘Use my words against me.’”
Now, with just four weeks before election day, Graham says he is “very focused” on confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, who was nominated by Trump after the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Harrison called Graham’s actions “heresy,” and a betrayal of his constituents’ trust.
To this, Graham replied, “So, if I may, I said in August, if an opening comes about, we’ll see what the market can bear. Ms. Barrett’s gonna get confirmed because the president has the Constitutional authority to do it.”
The issue of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic also came up during the debate, and Graham used the opportunity to complain about the criticism President Trump has faced for downplaying it, noting that nobody “attacked” Woodrow Wilson when he got the Spanish flu. After flouting coronavirus-related safety guidelines for months, Trump, several members of Congress, and several members of his inner circle are now sick with the virus.
That was not enough to change Graham’s position on the matter; he insisted the country needs to “move on” and quickly shifted to what he apparently saw as a more pressing matter: why nobody asked him how he was holding up after protesters demonstrated outside his home last month.
Harrison, for his part, said he was “taking [COVID] seriously,” as demonstrated by the plexiglass shield protecting him from Graham, on the other end of the stage.
Harrison’s great-aunt passed away in July, he said, explaining that she died by herself, in a nursing home. No one deserves to be blamed for the emergence of COVID, said Harrison. But, he added, our leaders should be held accountable for the way they responded to it.
“Because, you know, it’s not just about me,” Harrison continued. “It’s about the people in my life that I have to take care of, as well. My two boys, my wife, my grandmother...Let’s take this issue seriously and do all that we can to not only take care of ourselves, but each other.”
According to FiveThirtyEight, the two candidates are almost neck-and-neck in the polls as of Oct. 1. Harrison, a former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, has outraised Graham by a wide margin throughout the tightly-contested race.
In Saturday’s debate, Graham expressed confusion about Harrison’s strong financials. He leaned on an oft-repeated refrain he has floated lately on Fox News, casting himself as a victim of the left.
"Where the hell is all this money coming from?” Graham complained. “What is it about South Carolina that has attracted almost $100 million into Mr. Harrison's coffers? They hate me. This is not about Mr. Harrison. This is about liberals hating my guts because I stood up for Kavanaugh when they tried to destroy his life. This is about me helping Donald Trump. The only good Republican is one that tries to undercut Trump...This election is about taking me out.”