Jaime Harrison is inching – if not bounding – closer to a U.S. Senate candidacy.

While the longtime political operative and current Democratic National Committee associate chairman and counselor has not explicitly announced a run against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., he certainly hinted at it Thursday night.

"I'm getting very close to making an official announcement," Harrison, an Orangeburg native, said after delivering the keynote speech at the Aiken County Democratic Party's 13th annual Dorn-Derrick Dinner. "There's still some things that we're working out."

Harrison's speech during the dinner was impassioned and directed. At multiple points the self-declared exploratory candidate called Graham out by name, referencing the sitting senator's close ties with President Donald Trump and what he called their "special BFF time."

"Time and time again we see with Lindsey Graham, he will be a chameleon," Harrison said, later adding: "That's not what South Carolina's made of, not the South Carolina that I know. We walk with steel in our spines because we understand the fight that has to happen."

The former S.C. Democratic Party chairman – who has worked closely with U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. – said the "reaction and feedback" he is getting indicates a widespread want for change.

Dorn-Derrick Dinner attendees seemingly loved what Harrison had to say. His statements and suggestions, even the most targeted, drew laughter and applause, nods of approval and cheers to keep going.

State Rep. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, on Thursday described Harrison as the real deal. On stage, Clyburn lauded Harrison's accomplishments in Washington and suggested he would be the state's "next senator."

Harrison described the Clyburns as his "political mom and dad."

"They keep up with me, they keep me on the straight and narrow, but they always have my back," he said.

Graham is launching his re-election campaign next weekend, according to an advisory email from his camp.

Colin Demarest is the government and Savannah River Site reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin