'World News' Political Insights: Alvin Greene Leaves Democrats Spinning

South Carolina Senate candidate continues to be distraction for frustrated Dems

June 6, 2010, 5:48 PM

WASHINGTON, July 18, 2010— -- Democrats may wind up rooting for the Alvin Greene action figure after all. That way, they could put him in a box and ship him back to anonymity.

Greene, the Democratic Senate candidate in South Carolina, got his latest turn in the headlines today with what was apparently his first actual campaign event, a speech in front of a local NAACP branch that drew national media attention for all the wrong reasons so far as Democrats are concerned.

Long before Greene emerged as the shocking winner of his state's primary, Democrats basically gave up on the chance of defeating Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., in the conservative rising star's re-election bid this year. The best they could hope for was that he would win another term quietly.

Enter Greene, who's been anything but quiet in the awkward and outrageous comments he's uttered in a series of post-primary interviews he's granted. (Asking a reporter if he could get paid for his time and suggesting that the government sell action figures of himself to help close deficit mark just two of his recent gems.)

Democrats have given up hope of replacing Greene on the ballot. Several different investigations have failed to turn up any evidence to suggest that Greene's primary victory over Vic Rawl -- who actually campaigned for the job but lost by more than 30,000 votes -- wasn't legitimate.

In short, if getting Greene on the ballot was a dirty trick, it worked. And so Democrats will be stuck with him right through November -- action figures and all.

Elsewhere in the midterms, it's time for some choices -- if Democrats have any say in the choosing, that is.

Democrats get a boost in their efforts to frame the congressional elections as a choice -- as opposed to a referendum -- with the swearing in of a new senator from West Virginia, Carte Goodwin, on Tuesday.

Bringing the Senate Democratic caucus back to 59 will free congressional leaders to forge ahead with unfinished agenda items, starting with an extension of benefits to the long-term unemployed.

The movement will mark a welcome change of pace on Capitol Hill, after a week of political distractions that aired out long-simmering internal Democratic Party grievances.

Vice President Joe Biden brought the Obama administration back on message today, saying on ABC's "This Week" that Democrats will "shock the heck out of everybody" this fall -- and hold on to both the House and the Senate.

His comments came a week after White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs lit a fuse that had been threatening to ignite for months, by conceding that Democrats may end up losing control of the House in November.

The public and private thrashing and trashing that followed tracked a predictable course. The substance of Gibbs' comments wasn't particularly controversial; he was acknowledging what every partisan and nonpartisan observer has been saying for months.

But the episode laid bare significant tensions between a White House that has never had particularly strong relations with Capitol Hill and a Congress that feels the administration hasn't been fully engaged on the challenges of 2010.

That's not a danger any longer. Democrats, up to and including those in the White House, fully realize the stakes of this election, and now they have three-plus months to do what they can to move big historical trends in their direction.

The appetite for sweeping legislative action has been sapped in Congress. But that doesn't mean Democrats can't move some things along, starting with unemployment insurance extensions that have fallen victim to deficit concerns, and perhaps extending through a scaled-back energy bill that responds in part to the BP oil mess.

By framing a few choice issues as emblematic of the "choice" between the Obama agenda and what Republicans offered under the Bush years, Democrats hope a public that isn't yet sold on a return to GOP power can be kept in their fold.

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