COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The final weeks before an election are traditionally filled with rallies, handshakes, and back-to-back events, but like so much else this year, COVID-19 has changed the way campaigns operate.
But just because all campaigns are faced with the same challenges, they haven’t been approaching them the same way.
In the race for the Senate, Lindsey Graham has held more in-person campaign events than virtual ones. The campaign says Graham has held 35 in-person events and 16 virtual events. The campaign notes this does not include press interviews. However, it does include events where the Senator was acting in his official role at events within the state.
On the other side, Graham’s challenger, former South Carolina Democratic Pary Chair Jaime Harrison has held 27 virtual events since July and one in-person event in that time, according to the campaign.
They also note this does not include press interviews, and they are planning more in-person events in the final weeks of the campaign. Campaign manager Zack Caroll said they are looking at safe options including a drive-in rally.
“This is a movement campaign and frankly, if we were able and if there wasn’t a pandemic going on and we weren’t locked in our homes, we would certainly be outside every day with massive crowds of people,” Caroll said. “I know we are seeing that in our virtual town halls. I hope we will see that soon when we do in-person stuff, albeit safely.”
The Graham campaign had a different perspective on Harrison’s campaign strategy and has been accusing Harrison of not spending more time on the trail.
“There is a fine line between being responsible and hiding from your duty,” Graham communications director T.W. Arrighi said. “A senator needs to be involved in the community...[Graham] is still going to meet with small groups at safe distances with masks. Go wash your hands frequently. He will wash before, during, and after. There are ways to be a responsible leader in the community.”
The Harrison campaign has said Graham isn’t being safe enough at times.
“I have seen that there are a lot of senators, himself included, that haven’t been taking this virus seriously. If you were exposed to someone with COVID, you should be quarantined for 14 days and that’s not something he’s been doing,” Caroll said.
The Graham campaign has refuted this attack and said the senator has had no close contact with anyone who has tested positive with COVID-19, including President Donald Trump.
The attacks reflect how tight and closely watched the race for the Senate in South Carolina has become. On Wednesday, the nonpartisan election tracking group, the Cook Political Report, moved the race’s category from “Lean-Republican” to a “Toss-up.” The race was considered “Solid Republican” just six months ago.
In addition to the race being tied, according to recent polls, the Cook Political Report noted Harrison’s record-breaking fundraising and spending.
According to the Post and Courier and Advertising Analytics, the Harrison campaign is spent $50 million in about five months. The Graham campaign spent $20 million in that same time
On TV, the Harrison campaign is set to spend $13 million dollars in October and the Graham campaign is set to spend $3 million, according to The Post and Courier and Advertising Analytics.
“We have been talking to voters who have never been communicated with in South Carolina history. Whether that is talking to folks in barber and beauty shops in the PeeDee to Fox News cable, we are talking to voters who frankly have been forgotten in political campaigns in the past,” Caroll said when asked about the use of ads.
When asked about the gap in fundraising, Arrighi didn’t express concern.
“Senator Graham will have the money he needs to get his message out. At the end of the day, the people of South Carolina are going to know...especially next week with the hearings for Amy Coney Barret [and] this race changes, and people will see the kind of leader they’ve always loved in Lindsey Graham,” he said.
Graham will be on a national stage as he leads the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearings for Pres. Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, further highlighting the different tools each candidate has in their arsenal during this final stretch of a heated race.