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Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison and Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., face off in the South Carolina U.S. Senate debate at Allen University in Columbia, S.C., Oct. 3, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Jaime Harrison, the Democrat challenging Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, raised an astonishing US$57-million in the third quarter, the highest quarterly fundraising total for any Senate candidate in U.S. history and part of an enormous flood of money pouring into Democratic campaigns.

From South Carolina to Maine to Alaska, Democratic challengers in races that will determine control of the Senate have been out-raising incumbents for months. But money began to arrive at extraordinary rates after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last month and Senate Republicans pledged to push through a replacement despite the narrow window before the election and their blockade of president Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016.

Now, the Republican Party is being forced to mount expensive defences of seats it once thought were safe, stretching its resources to hold onto a Senate majority that it hopes will check Joe Biden’s power if he wins in November.

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Mr. Harrison did not so much break a fundraising record as shatter it: Before this year, the biggest quarterly haul for a Senate candidate was US$38-million, raised by former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas during his challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. Mr. Harrison blew past that by nearly US$20-million, raising more than twice as much in a single quarter as Mr. Graham – who has not yet announced his third-quarter numbers – reported raising in the previous six quarters combined.

Money, of course, does not guarantee victory; Mr. O’Rourke lost his race in 2018, and Mr. Graham has a good chance of winning this one. Recent polls have shown a dead heat: In a Quinnipiac University survey late last month, Mr. Graham and Mr. Harrison were tied at 48 per cent, with 95 per cent of likely voters saying their minds were made up.

But the fact that a race in South Carolina, which voted Republican in 2016 by more than 14 percentage points and has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1998, is competitive at all speaks to the intense Democratic energy nationwide, and to how quickly a challenging year for Republicans has turned into a potential blowout.

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