Fans listening to Gamecocks football on the radio Saturday heard something that only comes around once in a lifetime — and we're not talking about the history-making win over Alabama.
Green Party candidate Tom Clements, running for U.S. Senate against incumbent Jim DeMint and homebody Alvin Greene, released a new radio spot during the game. The broadside targeted DeMint for his seemingly endless incendiary comments, with a female announcer describing Clements as "moderate," "reasonable," and "sensible."
"You do have a choice," she told listeners. "A choice to vote against the extreme policies of Jim DeMint."
Considering there are some statewide Green candidates without a functioning website, Clements' high-profile spot on Saturday is indicative of the highly unusual 2010 campaign cycle — and it's only the first salvo. A second radio spot was released earlier this week.
Another long-shot candidate, Charleston chef Nathalie Dupree, has focused her write-in campaign on DeMint's anti-earmark stalling that has endangered expansion at the Port of Charleston.
Unlike Dupree, Clements is focusing on DeMint's bigger problem: the senator's tendency to speak his mind, even when those opinions are controversial, if not offensive to many South Carolina voters. The fact that DeMint is all but assured to be re-elected is surely a motivating factor in the senator's comfort in voicing his opinion.
Last month, CNN anchor Candy Crowley asked DeMint what he thought of Tea Party candidates calling for an end to the Department of Education. If Crowley was looking to get an embarrassed response from a well-heeled U.S. senator who was unaware of a looney, fringe movement proposal, she snagged the wrong senator.
"The fact is, education would probably work a lot better without the Department of Education," DeMint said.
But the senator was not content with simply suggesting that we dismantle the department. Just last week, the senator suggested that gays and unwed mothers shouldn't be allowed to teach — comments he had similarly made in 2004. Cue the ad from Clements, noting DeMint's "discrimination and intolerance."
Like Dupree, Clements is focusing all of his firepower on DeMint, but there's no doubting that the crux of any argument in favor of Clements centers on Greene. After a surprising primary win that included little to no campaigning outside of his parent's den, Greene was forced to juggle newfound national celebrity status and a felony obscenity charge for trying to pick up a USC coed by showing her dirty pictures on a library computer.
Greene was not so willing to talk. Last week, Greene hung up on us when we asked him about his campaign priorities.
"I want to remind everyone that DeMint started the recession," he said, noting irresponsible spending and mismanaged resources. "That's a fact," he said, before hanging up on us.
The success of Clements' campaign so far suggests that more than a few Democrats are looking for somebody other than the Manning mystery man.
Clements had three meetings with Democratic groups last week, and he was speaking with a Latino group in Rock Hill over the weekend, with a major Columbia meet and greet with Democratic movers and shakers planned for this week. The single most important priority Clements shares with average Democratic and independent voters may be the strong belief that DeMint has to go.
"I want to represent all South Carolinians," Clements says. "I don't think Jim DeMint does that. I think he represents narrow interests which basically are the interests of big corporations and the ultra-wealthy."