Jaime Harrison

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jaime Harrison held a kickoff rally in his native Orangeburg on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. Harrison is challenging U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. File/Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

At the very least, you’d think Jaime Harrison would send Lindsey Graham a thank-you note.

Maybe even a Candygram.

Last week, Harrison announced that he raised $2.1 million over the summer in his quest to unseat our senior senator. That’s impressive for a Democrat in South Carolina; his campaign said it was a party record.

In all, Harrison has hauled in $4 million since February — a pretty good pace with the election more than a year away.

Now, Harrison is a thoughtful, smart and connected man. He worked for U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, ran the state Democratic Party and now holds a lofty post with the DNC. But he’s not exactly famous outside of South Carolina politics.

So, how’d he raise all that dough?

Well, Graham helped.

See, Harrison has the good fortune of running against Graham — and it’s a really good time to be in the anti-Lindsey business.

Thanks to the senator’s recent antics, there are a lot of people all over the country who’d like to extricate Graham’s head from President Trump’s … golf cart. So the donations are pouring in.

Harrison hasn’t caught on quite like Beto O’Rourke did during his Texas Senate race, but he’s getting there. Already, he has the support of big-time progressives around the country, including the actor Bradley Whitford — who was the coolest guy on "The West Wing." 

A new poll claims Harrison is within 7 points of Graham among South Carolina voters, even though more than half of them have never heard of him. That may sound unbelievable, and perhaps it is, but there are some troubling data points in the poll for Graham.

It says Graham’s favorability rating in South Carolina is a puny 35 percent — 18 points lower than Trump. There are probably people in the Charleston County jail more popular than that.

The poll also says 58 percent of voters would prefer to vote for someone other than Graham.

There's no doubt Graham has taken a hit lately. A few years ago, the senator was the sort of Republican that attracted respectable support across party lines. He was thoughtful, fair, and bipartisan when it made sense.

So, yeah, right-wingers hated him. That across-the-aisle support probably saved him in the past, seeing as how many Republicans still call him Sen. Grahamnesty.

But as his reelection has crept closer, Graham has had an extreme makeover. He’s now Trump’s best buddy on Capitol Hill, and ratcheted up the sycophancy last year with a hysterical defense of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

And just like that, GOP primary voters found a Lindsey they could love. He hasn’t let them down since.

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The man who prosecuted Bill Clinton’s impeachment, and said a president didn’t even have to break the law to be removed from office, is now just fine with a commander in chief inviting foreign governments to meddle in our elections.

As Trump did on live TV last week.

As you might expect, Graham’s old coalition is falling apart. All the Dems now detest him, and there’s still a sizable sample of Republicans who just aren’t too sure about him.

And Harrison is reaping the benefits. He’s laser-focused on Graham’s inexplicable change and suggests he spends more time on CNN than in Seneca.

“I wish we could go back to the time when (Graham) stood up for what is right,” Harrison said. “But folks, we can’t rely on that. We need leaders who will never leave home behind. We need leaders who will always represent the interests of those of us back home.”

Smart strategy. But does Harrison have a shot?

Probably not. No political analyst is ready to declare Graham vulnerable. As good as Harrison’s campaign contributions are, Graham’s are better. And this is South Carolina, where statewide Democrats typically top out at 40 percent of the vote.

But Harrison is proving to be a more worthy challenger than the Dems usually put up, and turnout in 2020 is expected to be unprecedented with Trump on the ballot. Anything could happen, however unlikely.

If nothing else, Harrison is going to make Graham work to keep his job.

And he shouldn't expect a thank-you note for it.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.