Into the Fight for Lindsey Graham's Seat
It's a chilly Saturday afternoon. And the sky is bright in Greenville South Carolina. Snow the other day for Thursday and as soon as he had melted. So there really wasn't any Cumulation whatsoever John Rhodes is messing with. Gps as he sets his route through town. Alaska drunk our producer Van Spend the day with him. Larry John we're GONNA go to Alaska Avenue which is in the downtown part of Greenville off Lawrence Road next right John Works Hospital lab technician here in Greenville. He's in his mid forties a navy veteran and he's lived in South Carolina most of his life. Today he's out canvassing for states upcoming. Us Senate race. But it's been a minute. It's been quite a while since I've actually been involved in the political arena or theater whichever you might want to call it so it's kind of like you know getting back in the group of things. Less mccandless was around two thousand eighteen for the Ron Paul campaign and then before then John McCain when he was run in two thousand John is always campus for Republicans. But he's spending his Saturday driving around in his balloon. Volkswagen Jetta campaigning for someone. He never thought he would. How does it feel to be Kenniston for a Democrat? I don't know I didn't think I would be doing it but again. Never say never things change in situations change. And I'm happy that I'm one of those. That CAN'T GREENVILLE. Is a city of about seventy thousand people in the northwest part of South Carolina. It's in a red county in a red state. John is trying to make a dent in all that red today. John has emission. Mr Lomax unseat South Carolina's longstanding Republican. Senator Lindsey Graham. I'm as long as my name is John. Rhodes I'm from the Greenville County Democratic Caucus. Search Lindsey Graham you know is the Republican incumbent Senator and let his neighbors know who he thinks they should vote for this November instead a black Democrat named Jamie Harrison. We have a great man running this year. He's a Democrat Jamie Harrison. And we encourage you to look at him he's going to be doing some events in the upstate coming up. Come Out and talk can get to know way. And we're we're looking to really set some change for your in the upstate. So I'm mainly and this is into America a podcast about politics about policy and the power. That both have in shaping the lives of the American people and today we're going into South Carolina. The primary might be over but state. Electoral politics are just starting to heat up for the first time. Ever Republican Lindsey. Graham is facing a real challenge to his. Us Senate weird find out whether a democratic newcomer can take on a fixture of the Grand Cardi. And let me just make something clear? This is a long shot but it's a race Jamie Harrison. Believes he can win Lizzie. Graham's going to lose race he is going to lose this he said confidence. I know it. I feel it Ooh Lindsey Graham is a power player after serving four terms in the House of Representatives. Graham one is first Senate race in two thousand and two. He was reelected in two thousand eight and again in twenty fourteen and after eighteen years in the Senate he looms large. He sits on the Appropriations Committee the Committee on Foreign Relations. And He's chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's visible joining me. Now Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina Senator. Welcome back to meet the press a fixture in the Sunday morning shows. Bram is also known for his friendship. With another prominent Republican the late Arizona Senator John McCain they were so close that McCain even had a nickname Graham he called him little jerk and McCain died in two thousand eighteen Graham delivered a heartfelt tribute on the Senate floor. He could be tough but the joy that you receive from being with him will sustain you for a lifetime and I am so lucky to have been in his presence. You told me that principle and compromise are not mutually exclusive and the foundation of a great person as well as right nation to John Routes. Who's now at camping? Democrat McCain was the ideal leader this is a man who serves country honorably he was a POW Vietnam War he went through Hale in. He had the I'll say ability but sometimes I think it was more of a gift. He had the the gift to reach across the aisle. He didn't care what other people felt. I don't say that he didn't care about your feelings or thoughts but if he is convictions in his passions knew that he was going down the right road he followed them. They'll let you know what kind of politician and leader he was. That's what I want to see. Return I want that passion because the country John Identifies himself as an independent. He's a gun owner but he'd be open to the government banning automatic assault weapons. He thinks there should be limits on abortion but also says it should be legal and safe and followed his own path in two thousand sixteen. I could not vote for the top two I just I found Hillary Clinton could exactly. I'd just You know the also wrestled with that really did because when Donald trump came on the scene. I'll admit I kinda liked it at first because it was like a new style. It wasn't the typical we get up at the time. Yeah it was more off the cuff but as time went by just something wasn't right you know things didn't add up and then some of the things that were done the mudslinging and so forth. It just didn't sit well with me. Even though he didn't vote for trump John has been a loyal supporter of grams for years. Yes I have voted for him when he was in the House and when he ran for the Senate in two thousand and two and also in the last a senatorial race I did. I thought he was great. John saw Graham as an independent republican voice much like McCain. He respected grabs opposition to the bush. Administration's use of waterboarding and his belief in climate change. I'm not a scientist now. I've got the grades to prove it but I've talked to the climate of the world and ninety percent of them are telling me that greenhouse gas effect Israel that we're heating up the planet especially when Senator McCain was alive. He was to me. He was more bipartisan. And now it's like I don't even recognize that word anymore. He is very much submerged himself in the trump era. You know it's almost like it's It's more than an act of loyalty. It's almost I. I don't know if he's in a trance. I don't know what it is. He was on Fox and friends recently. And he's wearing a trump jacket so I guess he's now the official model of trump apparel John's not wrong about Lindsey Graham's changing allegiances during the two thousand sixteen presidential race. Graham was one of the most vocal critics of then candidate trump. I'M NOT GONNA try to get into the mind of Donald Trump because I don't think there's a whole lot of space there. I think he's a Kook. I think he's crazy. I think he's unfit for office. Back then grams. Contempt for trump. So great that it refused to back him even when he became the Republican nominee and he didn't even vote for him. He voted for a little known third party candidate but less than a year into president. Trump's first term Graham changed his tune. Here he is in November of two thousand seventeen. Oh what concerns me about the American press endless endless attempt to label the guys. Some kind of Kook not fit to be president. If you enter in the game of politics you stay on your core values. You stay with your passions in life. We're living in an era now. That s think a lot of congressmen fill like if they're not low to the executive branch then they are fear of not being reelected and so forth. And I just want to tell the American people and people in politics loyalty is not to the president. Loyalty is to the Constitution when I serve my country. We don't raise our right hand and pledge allegiance and give allegiance to the president now granted. He is the commander in chief. But you played yourself to the constitution to defend it from not just with Tara and threats from Ou- but from within foreign and domestic. These things is what keeps us together. You know as a free republic and gives us the opportunity to have free speech. It gives us the opportunity to vote. And when you start pledging loyalty to a man and not to an idea. We're headed in a very dark place so for John. A guy was cast his vote for the Republican ticket. Time and time again. The only choice is to give someone new shot. He's a breath of fresh air. He's invigorating he. He gives off a sense of energy. A sense of vibrance. I liked that that someone new is Jamie Harrison. I see change. I don't see Democrat. I see change progressive change more than Harrison after the break pay. Msnbc's Chris as this week on my podcast. Wise is happening. I'll be talking with writer. Author Adam Higginbotham on his book midnight. Insure noble ultimately what happened. Is they got used to doing these things that the regulations said that you should not do. But at the same time they were given these ridiculous deadlines that are given these extraordinary production quotas so something had to give on. This was typical throughout the Soviet workplace. And so they ended up doing these things that were dangerous. They were lulled into a false sense of security that they could get away with pushing this reactor rant and it would kind of take any punishment and then one day you turn rand bid. That's this week. I'm why is this happening? Search wise's happening wherever you're listening right now and subscribe. So who is this four year old? Black Democrat the one John's canvassing for. Who's trying to unseat Lindsey Graham? Who is Jamie Harrison? Being born to a sixteen year old mom raised by my grandparents in Orangeburg. We made do with the opportunities created for ourselves. Because that's all we had as he says in an ad he made to introduce himself to voters. He grew up in the small city of Orangeburg South Carolina and he didn't have much but he was a good student. He worked his way to Yale. University and Georgetown Law School. He's been a teacher a lobbyist and then aides who iconic South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn. He was also the first black chair of the State's Democratic Party. Does Harrison. Really think you're the shot at winning in November. I sat down with him in Charleston. To find out the politics is a tough business growing up like that. Prepare you many townsfolk. Come up to me was like man you ran against Len Graham as as really tough and this and that and I look at them and I'm just I'm kind of confused I mean I know what tough is like right tough is like when you you you don't know when the next meal's coming from right tough is when you you're no longer staining your house and you crashing in other friend's house and trying to figure out where am a lay my head the next day that's tough so take us back to the moment when you decided to actually run for Senate part of the conversation started in the cabinet hearings and you know. Listen I did not expect Lindsey Graham to vote against Judge Cabinet. I mean is the Republican nominee nominated by Republican president. Lindsay's Republican senator in the United States. And I've been in politics long enough to know how that works. That's going to happen but for me. The thing that was sort of the stronger the camel's back was the treatment of Dr Four. I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified. I am here because I believe it. Is My civic duty to tell you what happened to me while Brett cabin and I were in high school in September of Twenty Eighteen Christine Blasi Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Selling Her story of a young brick cavanaugh who she alleged sexually assaulted her in. High School. Senator Graham didn't ask for it any questions during the morning session but when Cavanaugh was calling the afternoon Graham spoke forcefully attacking the Democrats for allowing. Ford's testimony. What you WanNa do is destroy. This guy's life hold this seat open and hope you win twenty twenty. You said that not me even though you know you're going to vote for Judge Cavanaugh. And that's on him to make a determination. Why at the very least? You should see the pain that this woman is going through and treat her in a fair fashion the dramatic wagging the finger. All the other stuff that Lindsey Graham did was just over the top. You want this seat. I hope you never get it. And I hope that the American people will see through this charade. That was the moment. Because I have tremendous respect for Lindsey Graham. I didn't agree with him on a whole lot but I. I thought that Lindsey was one of the few folks on a bipartisan basis. That could be a statesman that would stand up in When the rubber met the road for what was right for the country of for the state and Lee politics aside. I always appreciate Lindsey because of that but to see what he had transformed into. Which is somebody who was doing a performance not for the American people for for one person and to do that. Performance not to benefit people South Carolina but to benefit himself was just beyond the Pale. On many of the issues guns abortion. Climate Change Harrison is a moderate Democrat but his campaign strategy is an only about draw distinction between himself. And Lindsey. Graham one policy is about making his case they. Graham is no longer the man for the job. We needed somebody who could challenge the status quo. Who could go in and talk to poor black white and Brown Folks in rural counties in South Carolina but also sit at round tables with the Chamber of Commerce and the Port Authority and BMW in Boeing and still talk about how you make a vibrant economy here in South Carolina. And there's never been a candid on the democratic side like me. Who can do that? We can go into those communities who can relate to focus on that type of level. Harrison's got momentum on the money front in the last three months of two thousand nineteen. His campaign raised three and a half million dollars. That's more money for a single quarter than any Democratic challenger in state history heading into two thousand twenty Harrison had more than four point six million dollars to spend against Graham. I have never felt the type of energy. I've gone counties. Lancaster County is on the border between South Carolina and nor Cala. Donald Trump carried this county. Sixty one thirty five. I was supposed to go to go talk to a group of seniors. We had about thirty. Rsvp'S I walk into to the building. And I opened the door and I see that he pulls up a picture on his phone. A packed house a packed house. A people who typically don't vote for Democrats. I was blown away and when as soon as I got in. They stand up and start cheering and start chanting. Sin Lindsey home. Lancaster County this is. This is not a democratic country. So there's a lot of excitement for Harrison and he's ready to take on this challenge but don't get it twisted. It's still a challenge. Sure Harrison has more than four point six million dollars but Graham has more than twice that ten point. Three Graham has every reason to believe he win. His conservative base is reliable and two thousand eight. When he ran for reelection he won by fifteen points and two thousand fourteen. He won again by about the same margin not to mention the fact that trump went South Carolina by fourteen points in two thousand sixteen. We asked Senator Graham to talk to us for this episode. He declined but we did talk. The T. W. A. Rigi his campaign communication director. We call him on the phone from trump rally in North Charleston. Last week we couldn't be more happy With the state of play right now and Senator Graham like he always has and this was advice from Senator Thurmond to him always run. Like you're behind always wanted like you ten points behind so senator. Graham started early with a launch with vice president pence back in the spring and since then he's been running hard. We continue to do so all the way through November. Now it's pretty interesting. That a re- would invoke the late Senator Strom Thurman when talking about this race more on that in a moment but in any case a Riggi made clear that Senator Graham does not see himself as behind knowing. I've seen no evidence to prove that he is. I believe I believe the people of South Carolina know him well in right now. I am sitting in the parking lot outside of president. Trump's rally down here in Charleston there have been people camped outside Since Tuesday we were we had our team out putting lawn signs out late last night. We had numerous people pull up to US asking for lawn science. How can they get involved? It was I. I've never seen it my years. In politics. There is an energy Yes for the president. But also for Senator Graham Down here in South Carolina because they know he's a man of principle they know that his beliefs don't shift with the wind He will always work with whoever is in the White House to achieve the best results for the people of South Carolina and he is in so many ways man. Grams campaign doesn't appear worried. So of Harrison. Wants a shot at this incumbent? He's got to be strategic. Part of his plan is to turn out unregistered black voters and get people to the polls who might ordinarily stay home in this state. We have four hundred thousand unregistered people color which is significant given the fact that Barack Obama lost the state in two thousand eight by one hundred fifty thousand votes for the First Time. We are now over a million people of color that are registered in the state of South Carolina. so things are things are modifying and they're changing and that's why. I keep talking about this New South Sea like the math. Yes in this state but you also talked about this idea of the squishy. Kind of middle with independent and moderate voters. Talk to me about that. And how important they are. They are very very important. These are people who may find themselves more fiscally conservative but socially they're more moderate right six seven times out of ten. They're going to vote Republican but give him a flawed Republican and a Democrat. That they'd light they'll pull the democratic lever. And that's I like to say there's Lindsey Graham one point zero two point. Oh I don't know if I could win against Lindsey Graham Onepointoh but I'm pretty certain that we will beat Lindsey Graham two point zero and that's partly because the people who were supporting him are very different now than they were back. Then you know we talked. With one of those squishy middle kind of independent voters Guy In Greenville. His name is John Roads and he's support Graham in the past he campaign for McCain. Back in two thousand for Ron Paul. Two Thousand Eight and now he's out there canvassing for you. Wow and that's the exact kind of That's exactly what I'm talking about. If Jamie Harrison does manage to beat Lindsey Graham it would be a really big deal. There's the politics of it off. Sure the underdog the establishment but this would go beyond politics. This would make history well right now you know we have an African American Center From the south there's only one and Tim. Scott can represent South Carolina by the way Tim Scott as a Republican. He's held his seat since twenty thirteen. And he's the first black senator from a southern state since reconstruction. Tim and I agree on a whole lot but beneath good guy. He's a nice guy and I have tremendous respect when I get elected to the United States. Senate it will be the first time that one st in the in the history of this nation one st will have two African American centers serving at the same time and so it will be historic vast. A bit of an understatement. There have only been ten black senators in. Us history and the seat that will make Harrison the second from the south and more than one hundred and thirty years. It comes with its own racial baggage before Lindsey Graham came to the Senate. His seat belongs to Strom Thurman Not Enough Plenty Army Fouling people breakdown segregate Andrew into our spring and our home. That's the man grams campaign. Communications director quoted earlier. Strom Thurmond was a segregationist. He made history with his twenty four hour. Eighteen minute filibuster against the nineteen fifty seven Civil Rights Act and before we Strom Thurmond seat. It was the seat of this band called. Ben Pitchfork Tillman Ben. Tillman was governor South Carolina. But he was also United States senator as governor South Carolina. He changed the constitution of the state because he was fearful that an african-american would ever become governor. Wants to make sure that they were safeguards to prevent that African American governor from being able to do anything and so we have one of the weakest governorships in the country because of that we still operate under that constitution. But Ben Pitchfork Tillman was also a man who would joyfully go to United States Senate and talk about the the pure joy of lynching of black people talked about African Americans as animals. It's possible that Jamie Harrison this young black Democrat could take that seat. I want the boys and girls growing up here in South Carolina to look to a new South New South Carolina newsouth at his bowl. That's inclusive that's diverse and that is building bridges to the future for them. One of those young people is twenty three year. Old Courtney Hicks being NFC American woman. I like seeing African American men having the strength in the willpower to speak truth to power and actually not be afraid to do such our producer. Previ- met her at the Harrison fireside chat at the College of Charleston. It's the good people of the state is to stand up and we can do that. This is much you can hear the turn out. That night wasn't great. Courtney was one of just about a dozen people to show up proof. That Harrison still has a ways to go if he wants to gain ground against Lindsey. Graham Courtney's parents voted for Graham in the past but she's excited to throw her support behind Harrison. Now five dollars every month just a little bit to support His campaign his mission. Do you think Jamie Harrison has a shot at winning this race? Prayerfully so South Carolina's a very difficult state. Especially when you're coming hard and strong at someone who has been in a position of power for so long so hopefully we have enough people who are ready to support an agent of change. I pray so a hope that his name begins to become more saturated indifferent home so that he becomes a household name that people recognize and not just recognize off of name but off of what he actually wants to put in place. Three hours away in. Greenville that's what John Road is trying to do. Make Jamie Harrison a household name. I'm your boots on the ground. I'm your ears on the ground to me. That's volunteer for campaign. Does you are the ears. You are the boots. Are you doing nine months out from the election? Some people still aren't paying attention to this race if you don't mind May I ask You You're thinking about for the upcoming Senate race against Lindsey Graham. The moment just been working so much time. Just check out but were working right now a lot of times to rain but this guy likes what John has to say about Jamie Harrison. So we agreed to look into them. I will we'll John. That's a win. Thanks to take some time off to get some rest Into America is produced by Isabel. Angel Alison Bailey. Aaron Don Max Jacobs Barbara Clarence high. I should Turner and pre the've earth on music by Hannah's Brown our executive producer is Ellen Franken. Steve I loser of audio. I'm mainly we'll be back next Thursday Hey everyone it's still in buyers from NBC News This Week on my podcast buyer's market. I talk one on one with the head of Instagram Adam. 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