Thursday, September 30, 2010

South Carolina U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

South Carolina U.S. Senate

September 30, 2010
33 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Red State (South)

Outlook: Safe Republican

On this last day of September, we take a look at the political barnburner down in South Carolina. Of course, I am being sarcastic. Six years ago, Republican Jim DeMint captured an open U.S. Senate seat from the Democrats, after surviving a competitive primary, primary runoff, and general election. This year, his reelection effort is much simpler, but perhaps more interesting.

While Democrats had long since given up on any realistic effort to defeat the conservative DeMint, it did look as though their sacrificial lamb would be Charleston City Council member and former State Representative and judge Vic Rawl. However, in perhaps the biggest primary upset this year, Rawl was defeated by eighteen points by the totally unknown Alvin Greene, who had not actively campaigned for the primary in any way. After this embarrassment, Rawl and many South Carolina Democrats cried foul, incredulous as to how the then 32 year old unemployed Greene, who had served in the Army, but was involuntary discharged had managed to win. The candidate, who also lives with his father, had paid a hefty filing fee, he later said from unemployment benefits. Without much in the way of proof, some in the party claimed that Republicans had recruited Greene into the race as part of a dirty trick and also alleged election irregularities. None of that ever panned out though, and it just appears that in a very low profile race between two low profile candidates, it was just a matter of voters selecting a name. In the 2008 Democrat Presidential primary, an historic African-American turnout in the state helped propel Barack Obama to a big victory in the state. This year, many the state's sizable number of black Democrats are believed to have correctly surmised by his name that Alvin Greene was black himself, and thus voted for him.

After his shocking primary win, Greene emerged as a public figure of some interest. He rejected his party's call for him to step down, and set about defending himself and his candidacy in a distinctly inarticulate sort of way. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that Greene was facing a felony obscenity charge related to a 2009 incident in which he allegedly showed some sort of porn and propositioned a young coed. The candidate has not answered questions about the incident, as it is a pending criminal legal matter.

Needless to say, DeMint's likely cakewalk over Rawl became more of a cakecrawl (or cakerun perhaps?) over Greene. Instead, the increasingly influential conservative has continued to shape his national profile by endorsing and helping to fund several conservative U.S. Senate candidates in other states. In many cases, he has differed from the preferred candidate of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, such as in Delaware where he backed longshot Republican Christine O'Donnell. When O'Donnell won that primary, thus making it unlikely the Republicans could pick up a seat they had counted on, many in the party pointed the finger at DeMint, complaining that his actions would endanger or perhaps end a chance for Republicans to take over the Senate majority. For his part, DeMint insists he would rather have a small minority of likeminded colleagues than a majority including some he finds insufficiently conservative.

The role of DeMint in the party in the wake of the 2010 elections will continue to be debated, as the Senator himself insists he has no designs on party leadership in his second term. It is possible though that he may wind up with several new allies in the Senate, who will owe him a debt of gratitude. It will also be worth watching to see if the now more nationally prominent DeMint, endorses a GOP candidate for President in his state's early primary. In the last cycle, DeMint was the highest profile supporter of Mitt Romney in South Carolina.

DeMint campaign link ("Freedom Works", just maybe not in Delaware where it was ok to throw a seat away to a liberal Democrat):

2010 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 8 D, 23 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 48 D, 46 R