A group of Democratic operatives are launching a super PAC to defeat Sen. Lindsey Graham as liberals try to expand the Senate map to include South Carolina, officials involved with the effort told POLITICO.
The organization, called “Lindsey Must Go,” say they have over $1 million in commitments and plan to raise at least $4 million through both large- and small-dollar donations. Lindsey Must Go indicated it will be more focused on attacking Graham than boosting his Democratic opponent, former state Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison.
“This is not about Jaime Harrison. This is about Lindsey Graham,” said the PAC's spokesperson, Jimmy Williams.
The super PAC comes after Harrison outraised Graham over the first three months of the year — bringing in a state record, $7.4 million to Graham’s $5.7 million — which made some national Democrats believe Harrison has a small chance. Graham has been preparing for a competitive re-election, though, and still has a more than $4 million cash advantage. A super PAC supporting Graham has already booked $1.6 million on the airwaves for the fall election.
Harrison, who has boasted about not taking corporate PAC money, seemed undisturbed by the outside group. “Jaime is focused on running his own campaign, which is being historically successful,” campaign spokesperson Guy King said.
The super PAC will be co-chaired by Stephen Groves, a senior advisor at the consulting firm Peter Damon Group who worked on Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign, and Brice Barnes, who was a senior advisor to Mike Bloomberg’s White House run. The group has also retained operatives Tim Lim and Catherine Algeri for their digital operation.
“Try as they might, no amount of liberal out-of-state money from Hollywood celebrities, Democrat[ic] super PACs, and the Clinton political network can successfully sell socialism in South Carolina," T.W. Arrighi, Graham’s communications director, told POLITICO in a statement.
Harrison is one of several Democratic challengers who outraised Republican incumbents in the first quarter, including candidates in Maine, North Carolina, Colorado, Montana and Arizona. The robust fundraising has suddenly put Republicans on defense and fearful that they could lose their majority next year.
There has not been much recent public polling of the South Carolina race, but Harrison’s fundraising along with a flush super PAC and other outside groups could force Republicans to at least dedicate resources to a state once deemed safe. An NBC News/Marist survey conducted in February before the economic and public health emergency caused by the novel coronavirus showed Graham up 17 points, 54 percent to 37 percent.
Despite long odds of winning, Harrison has been able to raise significant money from donors around the country because of Graham’s newfound villainous reputation on the left following his support for President Donald Trump and passionate defense of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation. Those moves have also made Graham — once portrayed as a squishy moderate by right-wing conservatives — more secure in next month's GOP primary. Six years after surviving a competitive intraparty challenge, Graham faces no serious primary opponent this year.
The hatred for Graham among many donors and the progressive grassroots has made the Harrison campaign and the super PAC confident that there will be plenty of money to go around between the two groups.
It’s unclear where the initial financial commitments are coming from. Asked if he would disclose the donors voluntarily this week, Williams said, “No, I will not.” And then he added, with a laugh: “As a former journalist, I appreciate you asking.”