Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Alvin Greene Story: Just a Political Science Major Playing the Pot Odds

South Carolina is having the most fun this political season. First it was the Nikki Haley story, she is running for Governor. Now it is the Alvin Greene story, he is running for U.S. Senate.

Alvin Greene won the Democratic primary in South Carolina last Tuesday with 99,970 (58%) votes against 69,572 (41%) votes for his opponent Vic Rawl. Vic ran a traditional campaign spending about $250,000. Alvin spent nothing but the filing fee. Vic was an established political figure, Alvin was a nobody, and so everyone has a theory about how this happened, from race voting to Republican dirty tricks.

Here's my theory: Alvin Greene ran the better campaign and deserved to win.

First of all, you need to get to know the two candidates, both of them. There has been a lot in the press about Alvin Greene but not so much about Vic Rawl. So watch these clips (no need to watch the whole clip, 10 to 20 seconds will give you the drift).

Here's Alvin Greene in a nice suit, nice tie, nice U.S. Flag lapel pin.

Skip to 2:12 for the start of the interview with Keith Olbermann. There is something refreshing about the way Alvin Greene gives Keith Olbermann Yes or No responses.

You don't even need to watch this one to see that Vic Rawl wants to throw the book at you. Talk about projecting an image of big brother.

More books. Vic Rawl's own bio says he reads 150 books a year, which is 3 per week. And isn't that slogan "Our New Senator" just a bit presumptuous.

Keep in mind that the two Alvin Greene videos were interviews with investigative reporters probing into what they see as a suspicious election result. The two Vic Rawl videos were filmed and posted by his campaign, presumably putting his best foot forward.

Do you get the picture? Vic Rawl is dull and slightly scary, and he spent $250,000 transmitting that message to the people of South Carolina. Alvin Greene comes across as reasonably intelligent if not terribly articulate, but did not do much public campaigning so that did not get communicated to the voters.

What I'm saying is that running no campaign was better than running a very bad campaign. Genius. And just how bad was Vic Rawl's campaign? Well let's look at his view count on YouTube, where he posted 6 videos:

Jim DeMint is not serious about SC590
We Are Required to Work Together138
I'm a Democrat, but I'm South Carolinian260
Why I'm Running...338
Meet Vic Rawl114
Vic Rawl Enters Race for U.S. Senate436

That's not a lot of traffic, and when you consider that most of it probably came in the last week after the reporters and bloggers started digging into the story, that's essentially no traffic.

And what about Vic Rawl's establishment credentials? He has a long resume but currently sits on the Charleston County Council. That's right, he's a county councilman. Is that even a full time job? Not exactly the usual platform to make a run for statewide office. The truth is that South Carolina is a Republican state, and running against sitting Republican Senator Jim DeMint was likely going to be a losing proposition for Vic Rawl.

But back to Alvin Greene. Some news reports have portrayed him as an unemployed veteran living on the edge of homelessness and mental illness, and some type of sexual predator who is facing charges for felony obscenity. Of course, the electorate didn't know all of this on primary election day, which demonstrates both the ineptitude and hubris of the Vic Rawl campaign and the genius of Alvine Greene's strategy of not visibly campaigning.

But that story doesn't quite hold either. The Washington Post reports Alvin Greene graduated in 2000 from the University of South Carolina with a degree in political science. Yes, that would make him an educated amateur.

He left the military last August, after service in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army, with he has described as an involuntary honorable discharge. The Washington Post also reports the Pentagon says he was awarded the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Korean Defense Service Medal.

Now he's 32 and living back at home with his father. You can't call that homeless. Yes, you can call that unemployed, but in my experience it is common for men and women just discharged from the military to go back home while they figure out what they want to do. Like running for political office.

Vic Rawl, in addition to finishing over 150 books in the last year says he also enjoys travel, golf, hunting, and off-shore fishing. That doesn't sound employed either.

So what about the sexual predator charges? An eighteen year old woman at the University of South Carolina (his alma mater) says she encountered him in the dorm computer lab where he was watching porn on the internet. I hate to break the news to you folks, this would not the first time a college computer was used to watch porn.

And then she says he asked if they could go upstairs to her room. That's not my idea of courting, but the inconvenient truth is that sometimes the woman in that situation says Yes even if most of the time she says No. Courting by porn is one of the things Anita Hill accused Justice Clarence Thomas of, and he was confirmed to the Supreme Court by the U.S. Senate.

That only a obscenity charge is being discussed (no trial or even indictment yet, and Greene maintains his innocence) pretty much proves that no assault took place. You can argue that 32-year-old men have no business propositioning 18-year-old women, but that doesn't always turn out bad like with Prince Charles and Princess Dianna.

That brings us to the $10,440 filing fee that Alvin Greene had to pay to enter the U.S. Senate primary. He says he saved it from his military wages. Others say some Republican trickster likely gave him the money. Both explanations are believable. Remember, he's back living at home with his father so wouldn't have a lot of expenses.

But it's not crazy to put down that money. The U.S. Senate seat is a job, and Alvin Greene needs a job, carrying a $174,000 annual salary plus benefits. Over the six year term that's $1,044,000. So the filing fee is just 1%. If he has a 1 in 100 chance of winning the seat, that's a good bet. Genius, I tell you. Genius.

Alvin Greene was not the only no-name on the ballot in South Carolina, there was also a woman named Susan Gaddy (white, if that matters to you). Susan Gaddy had a web site, which remained blank throughout the campaign (OK, maybe she didn't have a web site). And she had a blog, which had exactly one post: "Welcome to my blog, and thank you for choosing to learn about my campaign." She got 69,907 votes, which was also more than Vic Rawl.

And what about Senator Jim DeMint? He got 340,901 votes on primary day, more than twice his nearest competitor, mystery man Alvin Greene. And now everybody in South Carolina knows who Alvin Greene is. Vic Rawl had no real chance, no one knows what chance Alvin Greene has. Sometimes the voters say Yes to the outsider. Genius.

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