Manning Loves Alvin Greene
"Awkward," "unlikely," "cryptic." Those are some of the nicer words being used to describe Alvin Greene. The U.S. Senate hopeful from South Carolina has drawn a steady stream of jeers and jokes. The national media has seized on Greene's halting speech patterns and quirks. The AP has dug into his criminal record and cast doubt on his 13 years in the military. Every story has a tone of disbelief. But the people of Manning in central South Carolina - population 4,025 - see the situation very differently. "To me Alvin Greene is what you call a down-to-earth young man," says Julius Dukes, Jr. Dukes runs a shoe repair shop in Manning. Pumps, loafers and boots are piled high next to his sewing machine. He says most of the old-timers in town know the Greenes. They watched Alvin grow up. His parents were well-respected educators. Dukes is proud of Alvin Greene. "We always say to our children, 'Strive to do something,'" says Dukes. "And, 'If you strive to do something, people will help you to do it.'" Which is exactly what Manning seems to be doing. Everybody is amazed Greene won the primary. But nobody thought David would slay Goliath, either they say. "I think that he stand a good chance of winning," says Dukes. There's talk that the reason so many locals are rallying behind Greene is race. More than half of Manning's population is African American. But Greene did win the primary with a wide margin in all but four counties, so obviously it wasn't just African Americans who voted for him. And it's not just Democrats who support him. Here's a lifelong Republican who also happens to be white. "My husband was so shocked when I said, 'I'm gonna vote for Greene,' because I feel that he's an honest man and he's out of the ordinary for a politician," says the woman, who wouldn't giver her name because she didn't want people to know she's switching parties. But she was perfectly willing to sing Greene's praises in a crowded cafe'. Others in town are going even further. Spencer Tindal was one of the first people to donate to Alvin Greene's campaign. He runs a barbershop downtown where Greene brings his father to get a haircut. "Whenever (Alvin Greene) came in he just sat quiet right in that first chair," says Tindal. Greene was so quiet that Tindal was shocked the day he piped up and asked if could post a campaign flyer on the door. Soon Tindal says his customers were asking, "Who's Alvin Greene?" "I've only had a few people in here talking negative about him," says Tindal. "Only thing I think he's a little camera shy right now. He'll come around." Alvin Greene himself admits that he needs some practice. And he even understands, to some extent, why there's so much incredulity at his victory. "They may wonder about political experience since this is the first time running for office," says Greene. "But I do have 13 years of honorable service and I have broad experience. I have been many places. I have done many things." Greene's voice turns forceful. "What about my opponent and the incumbent office holders? What about them? Let's ask them 'Why are things so bad?'" Greene feels like he's being held to a different standard. The people of Manning think so, too. "Every politician has faults," they say. A group of local Democrats is forming a buffer around Greene, running interference with reporters and hoping to help the candidate sound more polished in interviews. Lately he is sounding more like a politician making bold promises. "I'm gonna end the recession," he says. "That's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna end the recession. . . " His sentence sort of drifts off after that statement and the specifics of his plan to fulfill that promise are sketchy. Local NAACP president Robert Fleming says Greene will have to make his plans a lot more clear if he expects to win over more votes in November. But Fleming says a little mystery isn't necessarily a bad thing in politics. "Throughout not only the state but the world you're hearing 'Alvin Greene, Alvin Greene,'" says Fleming. "He went into the primary as an unknown, but he's going into the general election as known throughout the world." And he got there without spending a dime. Greene says that's his strategy. Why hold rallies and make speeches when free publicity keeps knocking on your door?