Saturday, April 26, 2014

South Dakota Is Getting a New U S Senator

Primary election day is some six weeks away, yet the campaigns for U S Senate in South Dakota are bizarre and dysfunctional. Observing elections in South Dakota for now almost forty years, we haven’t seen one like this before.

Bottom line, there is about an eighty percent chance Mike Rounds will replace Tim Johnson. Rounds will win the vaudevillian GOP primary with 50 percent of the vote or more. Therefore he will run in the General Election against Democrat Rick Weiland and Independents, former Senator Larry Pressler, and if we believe him Gordon Howie

Our Nation faces more than a few very important issues. Issues that affect our national life are not being addressed because of the ideological political warfare that exist in our Country.

In the macro sense the issues are: Less self-reliance and personal responsibility / More reliance on government, our explosive and corrosive national debt, and Our divided national and government where blame and political credit are the business rather than solving problems.

In the micro sense issues that are not being addressed are balancing the budget, funding social security and medicare, energy independence, immigration, health care affordability, education (which I don’t believe should be a Federal issue), national fiscal policy, the deterioration of our foreign policy in the past five years, and increased political instability in the world. BTW – there are many more problems.

There are also important social issues but generally I believe individuals can make better choices than government.

Neither of the Parties is fielding their best Candidates.

A look at the field –

Rick Wieland is a two-time loser and hasn’t proven he has what it takes to win in Republican South Dakota. I don’t completely rule him out but in the past he hasn’t demonstrated the political abilities of Stephanie Herseth Sandlin or her vote getting abilities.

As noted, I do not completely dismiss him. Rick Weiland knows Democrats can win in South Dakota. Rick Weiland is working very hard and somewhat smart. He is busy developing a narrative and touching regular South Dakotans not just those that are politically active.

The fact he is in the field with advertising during primary season (even though unopposed) shows he learned something from his former boss, Tom Daschle. In 1986 Daschle ran ads during primary season to remind voters he was alive (while Republicans were slugging it out in Senate and House primaries) and setting the stage that problems in the country were not being addressed. Remember the with the red ink flowing over the Constitution?

Sidebar – I recently raised the point that SHS was the best Dem candidate with a very partisan Democrat who took offense and told me Stephanie was a Republican. He said SD Dems are furious with her over her vote against Obamacare and her not supporting same sex marriage.

As a GOP partisan, we should have a candidate who is younger than John Thune. I’m crying over spilt milk but we have four outstanding young leaders who have won statewide elections that would have been stronger Senate candidates than those running for the GOP nomination. (Alphabetical) Marty Jackley, Dusty Johnson, Chris Nelson, or Kristi Noem would have been a stronger Senate candidate.

As far as the GOP campaign field goes – as previously stated, Rounds wins. The former Governor got out very early, co-opted other Republicans by announcing his candidacy despite what Tim Johnson decides and harvesting the establishments campaign cash and support early. Rounds accomplished his early goal of convincing Kristi Noem her political future was better staying put. Otherwise the only even remotely qualified candidate is State Senator Larry Rhoden.

Dr. Bosworth and Stace Nelson are proving to be fringe candidates who in the best sense are running, as “Change” candidates and the worst sense are woefully unqualified for political office. Jason Ravnsborg just is too late, unknown in political circles, and not even remotely vetted.

Sidebar – the GOP does have a deep bench. Rather than the Staces, Bozs, Ravnsborgs, there are highly more accomplished and attractive GOP teamers on the bench ready to take the field of statewide office. Consider State Representative David Lust, State Senator Corey Brown, and State Senator Shantel Krebs (who is seeking the GOP nomination as Secretary of State.)

The campaign for the GOP nomination is not only a circus but has the sideshow and menagerie as well. Primarily they are only campaigning at Republican events.

Republican Lincoln Day Dinners are a great tradition and useful tool for the Republican Party.  It’s a great way for candidates to meet the activists and party faithful – but frankly while maybe attendance is mandatory for Governor and Federal races (absolutely mandatory for Constitutional Office candidates (that’s where convention delegates are), it’s a lousy way to get votes. Way over half if not more of those that attend have already made up their mind whom they support. GOP events are not the way to connect with voters. Candidates Bosworth and Rounds made far better voter contact at the Sportsman’s show than any LDD they attended. I noted that candidate Rhoden was at Lion’s Pancake Days in Sioux Falls last week.

Sidebar – One of the best campaign techniques I witnessed was when former S D Representative Don Ham approached me at the old Prairie Market warehouse food store in Mitchell one Saturday afternoon when my family were shopping. Rep Ham was running against Clint Roberts in 1980 for Congress in the “old” 2nd Congressional District. Don approached with the line that since I was shopping at a warehouse market I must be a man who wanted to stretch my dollar. If that was the case, he was my man to send to Congress. Don probably got more votes that day talking to shoppers than he ever got at GOP dinners. (Don lost!)

Worse yet the biggest issue is who hates Obamacare more? “Vote for me I hate it more than you do.” Then they talk about not attending debates, not being ideologically pure, i.e. “I am the real conservative in this race.” “I love guns more than you do.” (as defined by their own standards).

The issues I detailed above, are absent in this campaign.

Sidebar – My personal favorite is the attack on one of the candidates that he used to be a registered Democrat.  Just a reminder but Ronald Reagan, John Thune, Phil Gramm, Norm Coleman and many others were at one time Democrats.

Independents –

Howie puts himself in Stace Nelson’s camp. I couldn’t agree more. Enough said.

Former Senator Larry Pressler is simply just past prime time. He will add to the discussion and subtract marginally from the GOP vote totals next fall. Pressler is motivated for both personal reasons and because he too is unhappy with what’s going on in our Country. Many of Larry Pressler’s previous supporters are no longer with us. It’s worth noting, he hasn’t been on a ballot in South Dakota for 12 years as Mike Rounds hasn’t been on a ballot for 8 years. Presser’s endorsements and support of Barack Obama won’t be helpful in South Dakota where the President and his health plan enjoy little popularity.

While South Dakota has not put its best on the ballot, I take comfort in knowing that a pragmatic Republican Mike Rounds will when elected vote consistently for South Dakota and pretty consistently support his party in Washington.


  1. Not sure how anybody could write this and keep a straight face. The problems SD faces are a direct result of 30 years of republican control at the state level. State republicans can't run from that, they have no place to hide. The only time deficit spending and government control at the federal level is a problem for republicans is when we have a democrat in the White House. Right wing hypocrisy at it's best here. Sure hope you are not disappointed when Rounds is elected and turns out to be the person everybody says he is. A classic RINO, you get what you vote for.

  2. Interesting article.

    I'm going to disagree with one area that I don't think you went into enough detail on.

    How is Mike Rounds not the best candidate for Republicans in 2014 for US Senate?

    "As a GOP partisan, we should have a candidate who is younger than John Thune. I’m crying over spilt milk but we have four outstanding young leaders who have won statewide elections that would have been stronger Senate candidates than those running for the GOP nomination. (Alphabetical) Marty Jackley, Dusty Johnson, Chris Nelson, or Kristi Noem would have been a stronger Senate candidate."

    I have a hard time believing any of those listed above are in Mike Rounds' league at this point. If Mike Rounds wasn't running Stephanie Herseth would be and if Noem left the House Brendan Johnson would run for Congress.

    Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would be running if not for Rounds and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would probably be the frontrunner.

  3. ...and Mike Rounds might have last been on the ballot 8 years ago but he was Governor less than 4 years ago and won the last time he was on the ballot with 62% of the vote.

    Pressler might have been on the ballot 12 years ago but he lost really bad in a GOP primary to Janklow and the last time he won was 20 years ago.