Democratic (and mystery) candidate Alvin Greene won a primary in South Carolina

But Republican Senator Jim DeMint is the happiest Senator in the US right now. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said about Greene: I don’t know if he was a Republican plant; he was someone’s plant. Greene won Democratic primary over state lawmaker Vic Rawl. He received 59 percent of the votes despite having no campaign.

Questions:

1. Even if he is somebody’s plant how is it possible he won with no campaign and no name recognition? And BTW do you think he is somebody’s plant and why?

2. Would you say Alvin Greene has some chance to win the seat in Senate?

Answers:

Karen Kedrowski, Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, Winthrop University

It’s possible because of two reasons — and because Mr. Greene got really lucky.

First, the Democractic Senate primary was a low-profile race in the state. Most of the media attention fell upon the Republican primary because of the Governor’s race, and because of a number of uncontested races with no Democratic candidate. In these cases, the primary becomes the election.

Second, in heavily Republican South Carolina, no one expects DeMint to lose. So the media didn’t pay much attention to the Democratic Senate Primary.

Third, I think the Party also underestimated Mr. Greene, who didn’t campaign at all. He didn’t even have a web site. But for voters who have *no* information about anybody, then they might simply choose the name they like best. And since candidates are listed alphabetically by last name, there is even a tendency for those listed first to receive more votes.

Fourth, South Carolina does not require voters to state a party preference when they register to vote. Thus, individuals can vote in either the Democratic primary or the Republican primary, irrespective of their true party affiliation. I myself have voted in both primaries over the years. We call this “cross over voting.” So this means that Republicans who wanted to make trouble for the Democrats could simply vote in the Democratic senate primary — even if they would then miss out of the fun of the Republican party. However, we have no idea whether there was any significant cross over voting. However in an election with very low voter turnout, even a small percentage of cross over voters could tip the scales.

Was Mr. Greene a plant? I really don’t know. If he was, however, I’m sure his supporters did not expect him to win the nomination. Their purpose would have been to force Rawl to spend money on the primary so that he would be at an even greater disadvantage in the general election campaign against DeMint.

2.  No. Senator DeMint has got to be the happiest Senator in the US right now.

Joseph Stewart, Jr., Professor, Department of Political Science, Clemson University

In low visibility elections, the unexpected can happen.  Much is being made of Greene’s lack of a campaign, but I never saw anything from his opponent’s campaign either.  Winning the “honor” of being the person to challenge Jim DeMint in the general election is a dubious distinction.  I have no idea whether Greene is a “plant” or not, but I do not know why someone would go to the trouble.  DeMint is popular among the conservative core of Republican voters, who comprise a majority of voters in a state-wide race in South Carolina.  I cannot imagine a scenario under which Greene could defeat DeMint.

Charles Finocchiaro, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of South Carolina

1. Senator DeMint is about as certain for reelection as you can get. So I think it’s largely a matter of people paying little or no attention to the campaign. It is surprising, however, that the media did not pick up on this person. His opponent actually has a political history, serving for instance, as a member of the State House a while back. I really cannot speculate about whether or not he is a plant.

2. Anything is possible in politics, but were he to win, this would be the election of a century.

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