Near the end of a week in which he begged supporters to donate money to his campaign for a second time, embattled Senator Lindsey Graham took to the debate stage on Saturday to face his opponent in the race to represent South Carolina in the Senate.
Senator Graham is tied with Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison at 48 per cent each, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, in a race that has become unexpectedly competitive and could play a role in flipping control of the Senate.
Mr Harrison has seen a surge in donations since the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the incumbent Graham’s u-turn on his previous pledge to not fill a Supreme Court vacancy in an election year.
Reportedly $9m was donated to the Democrat in the three days following Justice Ginsburg’s death.
When the subject of the Court came up in the debate at Columbia’s Allen University, Mr Harrison said that listening to the senator flip-flop on the issue reminded him of playing Monopoly with his young son: “He changes the rules every [chance] he gets.”
Accusing the Senator of going back on his word on the issue to the American people and the people of South Carolina, Mr Harrison called it the “greatest heresy” you can do as a public servant is to betray the trust of the people.
“Just be a man about it,” he said, “and stand up and say, ‘You know what? I changed my mind. I’m going to do something else.’ But don’t go back and blame it on somebody else for a flip-flop that you’re making yourself.”
As the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr Graham is at the heart of efforts by the Trump administration to install Judge Amy Coney Barrett before election day, and certainly before inauguration day.
Senator Graham even referred to the appointment in a response about the coronavirus pandemic — a tactic he employed a number of times in what seemed to be a strategy of trying to scare the electorate away from Mr Harrison and the “radical left”.
At one point he ended a response about Covid-19 testing by warning that Democrats would introduce Medicare for All and pack the courts with liberal justices.
Harrison on Graham supporting confirming ACB ASAP: "Your promise [in 2016] was no judicial nominees should be considered or approval or what have you in the last year of the election... Senator, how good is your word?" pic.twitter.com/UeJW0nB080
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 4, 2020
Mr Harrison retorted at one point: “What we haven’t seen with Senator Graham and Senate Republicans is the same urgency to pass Covid relief like they are trying to ram through a Supreme Court nominee.”
Earlier in the week on The Hannity Show , Senator Graham decried how the Democrats are “going crazy raising money against the president, myself…” and directed viewers to his campaign site.
Urging donors to part with their cash, Mr Graham continued: "We're trying to get to the bottom of what happened with Russian collusion, and get Amy Barrett through… Lindseygraham.com, help us all… we need your help".
Lindsey Graham on term limits: I’ll leave that up to the voters. You can limit my term on November 3rd if you like pic.twitter.com/iYedZDCz9z
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) October 4, 2020
In the debate, he framed the tightness of the race and the money pouring into Mr Harrison’s campaign as being about “liberals hating my guts”.
He added: “The reason you are seeing the ads is they want to take me out.”
Mr Graham has held the seat since 2003. In a response to a question about term limits for Congress, the incumbent senator responded: “I’ll leave that up to the voters. You can limit my term on November 3rd if you like.”
The same Quinnipiac poll that had the Senate candidates tied put president Trump just one point ahead of Joe Biden at 48 per cent to 47 per cent.