But Trumpism is the Republican Party. Isn’t Graham simply doing what conservative Republicans want in your state?
We haven’t had a candidate run against Lindsey, since the first time he ran, who can echo these issues and articulate them to voters. That’s why I think we have a shot. South Carolina is changing, reverse migration is taking place. A lot of the black folks who used to be in Ohio and Chicago and all those places, they’re coming back home to the South. You see that in Atlanta, and Charleston, and Charlotte, and all across the South. You see the explosion of the Latino population.
So it’s not a matter of persuading Republicans, but motivating new people to vote?
You have to do both.
But I think of the midterms, where several statewide candidates across the South made this argument: Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, Beto O’Rourke. All of them lost. Why can you do what they can’t?
Well I think Abrams actually won.
I think I understand the state party. And I think I understand the service component. You have to show, not tell. We have to rebuild trust in these communities. You can’t just say you’ll do A, B, C or D. They want actions, not just words.
And of course you’re running in a presidential year.
Listen, that could have an influence on it. But it wasn’t part of my calculus. For me, people are hurting in South Carolina and for years I recruited candidates to run. And then I thought about Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote about sitting on the sidelines and said “I just can’t sit on the sidelines any longer and change things,” I need to do it.
Last question. I keep coming back to this: Isn’t Graham’s approval rating higher since embracing Trump? The president is still popular in red states. How do you overcome that?
You talk to people in their hearts and their guts and you appeal to them on a human level. That’s my working theory. But we need the resources. In the past, the Democrats who have run statewide have not had national support in order to pull it off. I believe I’m in a unique situation. And I need to use those national relationships to come back home and energize South Carolina. I think that’s our difference maker.