In a year full of unusual events, here's another — a Democrat could actually win a U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina, a Republican stronghold that one political expert describes as "so red that it is sunburned."

Several polls show a dead heat between first-time candidate Jaime Harrison, 44, who lives in Columbia and is a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, and Lindsey Graham, 65, a Republican from Seneca seeking his fourth term in the Senate.

In a phone interview with The Greenville News, Graham predicted voters will reject Democrats for embracing "the most radical agenda that I've ever seen," which he said includes abolishing the Electoral College and allowing the District of Columbia to become a state.

The platform approved at the Democratic National Convention does not address the Electoral College, established by Congress to indirectly elect the president, but it does call for making Washington, D.C., the nation's 51st state.

"That is why on Election Night, I'm going to do very well," said Graham. "I'm going to win decisively."

In a separate phone interview, Harrison said South Carolina voters realize Graham is no longer fighting for them on issues that matter.

"He has simply lost touch with the people of this state," Harrison said. "I want people to understand this — whereas Lindsey Graham is trying to scare them to vote for him, I am trying to inspire people to vote for me."

Harrison and Graham are set to meet in their first debate on Saturday night at Allen University, a historically Black school in Columbia.

How to watch:First debate between Lindsey Graham and Jaime Harrison

Lindsey Graham and Jaime Harrison

Close race could be affected by Supreme Court nominee 

On Oct. 5, voters will begin casting in-person absentee ballots in a race that defies recent history, according to Danielle Vinson, a professor of politics and international affairs at Furman University.

"I have never had a conversation about a South Carolina Senate race like this in my entire 25-year history of being a professor in the state," she said. "We've not had a competitive Senate race until now."

The late Fritz Hollings was the last Democrat to represent South Carolina in the Senate, and he left office in 2005. The state's last close contest was in 1998 when Hollings narrowly defeated Republican Tommy Hartnett.

In Graham's three previous Senate races, he has beaten his Democratic opponents by an average margin of nearly 14%.

Vinson points to a number of reasons why Graham seems to be facing the fight of his political life this year.

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