Why Isn’t Alvin Greene a Big Story Anymore?

Even though it’s pretty obvious that Alvin Greene, the unlikely Democratic nominee to challenge Jim DeMint for South Carolina’s Senate seat, is going to lose, it’s surprising to me that his nomination isn’t being more carefully studied by journalists and political scientists.

The obvious issue is that Greene’s nomination was probably a statistical fluke; some attribute his victory to ordering effects on the ballot, others simply to the statistical long view which dictates that given enough time, weird things will happen. Given enough elections in American history, a few oddballs will emerge.

Yet Greene’s story could challenge some widely-held opinions about the role intraparty politicking plays in the selection of general election candidates. When the media refers to a “presumptive nominee,” what are they referring to when such a nominee can be unseated by a literal unknown? Are there really politicians who have to do nothing in order to survive a primary election? What’s up with an electorate that falls firmly into the category of “likely voter,” a.k.a., those who vote in party primaries but don’t understand how the names on their ballots are ordered much less who the party bosses are?

Greene’s failure to gain popularity despite his immense press presence over Jim DeMint is also an important part of the story. I took a look at the relative volume of media references each candidate has gotten since the beginning of the general election and, despite DeMint’s relative celebrity status in the political world, Greene consistently out-shined him in raw press references:

And then if we overlay the five public polls that have been released so far for the race, the popularity values essentially invert:

This may be because virtually all of Greene’s press coverage has been negative, or at least insufficiently positive to overcome the fact that he’s currently on trial for obscene acts. Really, fundamentally, Alvin Greene is a really weird character, and I’m excited to see what gets written about him once the dust has settled.

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