COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Four days from Election Day, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison met on stage in Columbia competing for last-minute votes in their final debate.
The debate was wide-ranging, with questions focused on COVID-19 and health care, climate change and energy policy, race relations, and policing.
While voters have been casting ballots absentee in person in South Carolina for several weeks, the race by all accounts is expected to be close, garnering national attention with the balance of power in the Senate at stake.
The race has seen a glut of money, with the Democratic challenger Harrison raising close to $100 million dollars, which is the most ever for a Senate candidate.
Graham is working to fend off the toughest challenge of his Senate career, and it was no different in the debate Friday night.
Harrison went on offense, trying to cast Graham as a Washington insider, out of touch with the needs of South Carolinians during the COVID pandemic.
“What we needed was real leadership to address this issue at hand,” Harrison said. “What you just heard from Senator Graham was what we get -- the discussion of Washington D.C. I don’t care about what is going on in Washington D.C. Because right now, Rome is on fire here in South Carolina.”
Graham meanwhile, contrasted himself with his opponent in terms of policies.
“Lots at stake here,” Graham said. “Higher taxes which will kill the recovery. Or lower taxes. Open borders. Securing the border. Private health care versus socialized medicine. Conservative versus liberal judges.”
Graham further worked to tie Harrison to the most progressive wing of the Democratic Party on issues like the Supreme Court and energy policy. Harrison deflected the charges, insisting that, while he is a Democrat, he was “not Nancy Pelosi.”
“Folks are tired of just the talk. They are looking for action,” Harrison explained. “And we need action in order to save the green earth, this globe we live on right now. The senator said he’s a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus. That has no solutions.”
Graham countered: “I’ve had a consistent view of offshore drilling off South Carolina, Mr. Harrison. South Carolina will decide and nobody else... not the federal government. We’ve achieved energy independence under President Trump’s watch. I don’t want to go backward.”
One of the final questions circled back to the tone of the race, and the Harrison campaign’s decision to run ads featuring conservative Dr. Bill Bledsoe, a third Senate candidate on the ballot. The ad highlights Bledsoe’s conservative positions, aiming to steer conservative voters away from Graham who may view the incumbent senator as too moderate. For his part, Bledsoe has suspended his campaign and endorsed Graham.
Responding to the ad, Graham said, “This effort by Mr. Harrison and his liberal allies to trick conservatives into voting against conservatism will not work. Come Tuesday, this is going to be soundly rejected.”
“Dr. Bledsoe is still on the ballot,” Harrison countered. “Dr. Bledsoe has also not officially withdrawn his name with the State Election Commission. Don’t believe me? Ask him. We all know what Lindsey Graham said about using his words against him.”