South Carolina is flipping, with voters in two counties changing their allegiance from Republican to Democrat in close races. Meanwhile, the national contest looms larger than ever in the minds of voters, some of whom described the results as a referendum on President Trump.
Party switching of this sort has occurred only a handful of times in U.S. history. On Tuesday, two voters in Charleston County voted to register with the Democratic Party, by a total of 157 votes, after long-standing support for the Republican Party. In June, a single voter in Berkeley County switched to the Democrats.
A third voter, Jakeie Sink, 29, said she decided to vote for a Democrat, to “support the effort to take back our government from the Republicans.”
“It’s just, look at it. They’re not governing,” she said. “They can’t change the atmosphere.”
The change is all but meaningless to the outcome. Cynthia Nixon, the New York gubernatorial candidate running as a Democrat, appears to be behind in her state. Her party doesn’t have enough crossover voters, so she might as well wave a white flag.
But South Carolina seems likely to produce a surprising result, given that the state’s ballot only has one name on it: Senator Lindsey Graham.
On the last night of South Carolina’s primary, as you read this, Graham can feel a wave of tide about to sweep him toward higher office.
He should be holding his own.
Mr. Graham has raised about $6 million to Mr. Alexander’s $3.5 million, according to Federal Election Commission data. They’re both running close.
But despite the differences, the dynamics of the race make Mr. Graham the favorite to prevail. Mr. Alexander is one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents in the country, having failed to win reelection in 2012.
In a sense, that fact makes him the ideal counterweight to Mr. Trump, whose name was nearly a household word on Tuesday night, if you’re a Republican primary voter, because he had a big impact on just about every contested Senate race in the country.
But Mr. Graham is embracing the president’s agenda, and Mr. Trump has become a good friend to Mr. Graham, having snubbed him by not including him on the presidential ticket two years ago.
On the flip side, Mr. Trump is motivated to help Mr. Alexander because he needs his support in the crucial election year, a presidential year, to maintain the GOP’s control of the Senate.
Mr. Graham has taken advantage of the dynamic by hitting Mr. Alexander for his voting record.
“No one in the GOP would ever say anything bad about Lindsey Graham,” said a Democratic lobbyist in the state, “and the reason is, he’s the Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and he’s a pro-Trump guy. If you put him in a world where he doesn’t have an important ally, that’s probably where you’d want him, because then he’d have to stand by his belief system.”
Mr. Graham said on Wednesday that he wouldn’t start to think about the Senate race until after Mr. Alexander gets past the primary.
But Mr. Graham, who seemed friendly to Mr. Alexander on the campaign trail, wasn’t completely dismissive of the possibility of his rival’s rise.
“I don’t need him in the Senate,” Mr. Graham said. “But I’m flattered that he wants to serve.”