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Opinion: What if Alvin Greene Jumps in South Carolina?

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In South Carolina, conventional wisdom is that Mitt Romney has this Saturday’s primary all wrapped up, despite Newt Gingrich’s tour-de-force debate performance on Monday. But that calculus ignores the potential political earthquake that could ensue if former U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene makes a last-minute bid for the presidency. 

Greene first flexed his electoral muscles in June 2010. Then a jobless unknown, the U.S. Army vet scored a surprise win over Democrat Vic Rawls in South Carolina’s U.S. Senate primary to become the state’s first African-American U.S. Senate nominee, all without holding a major campaign event or seeking help from top state Democrats. That left him with few allies in the state’s Democratic establishment. And though Greene unveiled a bold new jobs plan to hire people to make Alvin Greene dolls, elected South Carolina Democrats maligned him as a Republican plant. When that helped to erode his support in the general election, he lost his Senate bid to Jim DeMint that November but vowed a retributive presidential run against turncoat Democrats, promising “a Greene/Obama showdown.”

Now in the midst of a counseling and community service program to have obscenity charges stemming from an alleged 2009 computer lab incident expunged from his record, Greene seemed to be retired from politics when he told last November that he’d be sitting out the 2012 race. And South Carolina’s filing deadline passed on November 1.

But his Senate campaign proved that Greene has the charisma to galvanize South Carolinians without putting in much time or effort. He scored 59 percent of the primary vote in that race – 20 percent more than Mitt Romney did in New Hampshire, BTW – without even building a website. A come-from-behind write-in win on Saturday could turn Greene overnight into the next Not-Romney just in time for the Florida primary on January 30.   

Granted, Mitt Romney has a 10-point average lead over his closest rival in South Carolina, per Real Clear Politics. But Alvin Greene is “the man,” as he once told “I’m the man. I’m the man. I’m the man. Greene is the man. I’m the man.”  And, if he jumps into the presidential race between now and Saturday’s primary, he could also be the Republican nominee.