Lindsey Graham accused of dodging debate as polls show challenger Jaime Harrison closing in

Chris Riotta
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham during the fourth day of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Judge Barrett (EPA)
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham during the fourth day of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for Judge Barrett (EPA)

Senator Lindsey Graham skipped a debate and insisted he would not return to his home state of South Carolina until Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed by the senate, as polls showed him facing an increasingly tough re-election bid.

The senator did not attend the debate previously scheduled for Wednesday against his Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, stating at a rally earlier in the week that he was “headed back to Washington” and adding: “I’m not coming back until Amy Coney Barrett is a Supreme Court Justice.”

His campaign later said in a statement the debate should be postponed, citing the ongoing Supreme Court confirmations hearings he was overseeing as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Recent polls have shown Mr Harrison, associate chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a former chair of the state’s Democratic Party, rising in his bid to unseat the Republican incumbent.

His campaign raised a record-breaking $57 million since July, a historic level of fundraising seen in some ways as a rebuke of Mr Graham’s oversight of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Critics have slammed the chairman and other Republican leaders for conducting the hearings just weeks before Election Day, while failing to pass a new comprehensive aid package to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Public surveys and internal polling data has shown Mr Harrison with a slight lead over Mr Graham, including a Morning Consult poll that reportedly showed the Democrat with a two-point lead over the incumbent.

However, other surveys showed Mr Graham with an advantage, including a recent New York Times/Siena College poll that showed him with a six-point lead over his challenger.

Mr Harrison slammed Mr Graham for missing the debate in an interview with SiriusXM’s The Laura Coates Show, saying his “ducking and dodging” was “really sad”, but it’s a testament to who he is”.

Mr Graham “believes that he represents the interest in Washington, DC, instead of representing the interests of the people in South Carolina,” Mr Harrison said, adding: “And that's why he's on the verge of getting that one-way ticket back home.”