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Jaime Harrison, the Democrat running against Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, told "Axios on HBO" that he's poised to "close the chapter on the old South" if elected in November.

Why it matters: Many people thought this Senate race was a long shot for Democrats, but things are changing quickly as polls show the contest is tightening and it's become the most well-funded race in South Carolina history, per the Post and Courier.

  • In mid-August, Cook Political Report changed the rating of the race from "likely Republican" to "lean Republican" — signaling a massive shift in the dynamics at play, though a win is certainly not guaranteed for the Democrats.

What he's saying: "Lindsey Graham, a man who I used to have tremendous respect for, he's changed. He's not the same person," Harrison told "Axios on HBO."

  • "I'm running against a guy who cares more about his own political relevance and his political power than he does addressing the issues that people are dealing with here on a day-to-day basis."
  • Harrison said if elected, he hopes to usher in a new era for the South. "We are about to close the chapter on the old South and start a whole brand new book that I call the new South," he said. "A new South that is bold, that is inclusive, that is diverse."
  • He pointed to his recently released "Rural Hope Agenda" as a way to achieve that vision through policy, touching on things like education, infrastructure and broadband access for rural Americans.

The big picture: Ongoing protests against police brutality have shifted the national political discussion to focus on systemic racism, giving some Black candidates a renewed look and raising awareness about their lived experience in the U.S.

  • Harrison, who is Black and the father of two young children, talked about navigating those two realities:
"This pain is not new. It is hard when I talk to friends and they say the hardest thing that they have to tell their kids is that Santa Claus ain't real. Well for me, I got two Black boys. And the hardest thing that I have to do is tell them that one day they may lose their life because of the color of their skin.
— Jaime Harrison, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, to "Axios on HBO"

The bottom line: If Harrison wins, South Carolina will become the first state in U.S. history to have two African American senators serving at the same time. He would join Republican Sen. Tim Scott.

Go deeper

Introducing "Hard Truths"

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo. Logo: Miranda Leung/Axios. Photos: Bettmann, Stephen F. Somerstein/Getty Images

Hard Truths is an Axios series exploring the impact of race in America.

Why it matters: If you’re white or rich, it’s easy to believe that racism is something that ended years ago. But the hard truth is: That’s not supported by facts.

  • Our society, institutions and culture are still filled with barriers that shut out people because of the color of their skin, the origins of where they were born and other factors they can’t control.
  • That didn’t just happen a long time ago. It’s happening right now.

Driving the news: We recognize most newsrooms, including ours, pay too much attention to news of the day, and less time examining what's below the surface.

  • We were challenged on this by an Axios employee, who asked during the nationwide protests this summer: "Why does the news media spend all its time focusing just on events like this and then move on, instead of explaining systemic racism?"

Between the lines: We know that some of you will be skeptical.

  • We promise that Hard Truths — like all Axios coverage — will be grounded in facts, clinical and clear-eyed, so you get the full picture.

What’s next: Each month, we'll examine a fresh topic. Our project begins on Saturday with voting. In coming months, we’ll explore education, housing, technology, sports, health care and more. You’ll find this coverage:

  • In special Saturday bonus editions of Axios AM.
  • On Axios.com in a new "Deep Dive" format.
  • On a special edition of our "Axios Today" podcast that will accompany each new topic.
  • On "Axios on HBO."

The bottom line: Our goal is to equip you with facts showing the full picture of race in America — a topic long overdue for this nation and its leaders to confront.

Go deeper: Our first installment, on race and voting in America.

21 mins ago - World

Iran's nuclear dilemma: Ramp up now or wait for Biden

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The world is waiting to see whether Iran will strike back at Israel or the U.S. over the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran's military nuclear program.

Why it matters: Senior Iranian officials have stressed that Iran will take revenge against the perpetrators, but also respond by continuing Fakhrizadeh’s legacy — the nuclear program. The key question is whether Iran will accelerate that work now, or wait to see what President-elect Biden puts on the table.

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine that's found to be 95% effective with no serious side effects against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.