Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The Beltway's Not America-- And It Sure Isn't South Dakota


Josh Kraushaar's National Journal post yesterday started off just right: "If Democrats fall a seat short of holding the Senate, there will be a lot of second-guessing on the one race that never materialized but should have held a lot more promise: South Dakota." But then he veered right off the rails. In regard to Rick Weiland's chance of holding the seat for the Democrats he asserts that "even the most optimistic Democrats will acknowledge [he] faces near-impossible odds in the solidly red state." That isn't true. Optimistic Democrats know Weiland could win if he weren't being cock-blocked by DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil. Almost every Democrat in the Senate-- and every single good one-- has already endorsed Weiland but Kraushaar chose not to speak to any of them but to instead play stenographer for the poutraged Blue Dog-loving/progressive-hating Mr. Cecil. "It didn't have to be that way," commiserates Kraushaar, totally with the grain.
The Senate race to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson could have been one of the most consequential contests in the country, if Democrats had a little more luck. Just over a year ago, the political talk in South Dakota centered on which of their up-and-coming prospects would run-- former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, one of the most popular figures in the state after representing it for three full terms in the House, or Tim Johnson's son Brendan Johnson, who's serving as a U.S. attorney. Despite the state's Republican moorings, now-Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's surprising 2012 victory in neighboring North Dakota served as a fresh reminder that strong candidates running in conservative-minded states can overcome disadvantages.
In the delusional Beltway world of the Cecils and Kraushaars, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is indeed "one of the most popular figures in the state." But not in real life. And even if they're delusional, she isn't. Democrats in the state don't trust her and didn't turn out in 2010 to reselect her, allowing right-wing Republican Kristi Noem to beat her. Herseth Sandlin knew she could never win a Democratic primary and she only agreed to run if Cecil could assure her he would clear the field for her-- which he did, by persuading Brendon Johnson to not run. That's when Weiland jumped in… and Herseth Sandlin jumped out. "She announced," writes Kraushaar, "the desire to spend more time with her family as the reason for stepping aside, but several Democratic operatives familiar with her decision said she didn't want to face any primary opposition, even against a longer-shot candidate like Weiland… Against Weiland, Herseth Sandlin would have been a clear favorite to win the nomination. But against the more-liberal challenger, she would have been forced to defend her vote against the president's health care law, an issue she trumpeted in her unsuccessful 2010 reelection. In a state where Democrats have little margin for error, being pushed to the left in a primary would have been costly in a general election." Cecil has stomped his feet and barked and barked and barked-- and decided to tale it into his own hands to let Mitch McConnell and the Republicans take over the Senate rather than have his fragile ego bruised by something as messy as Democracy-- and dirty fucking hippies. More Krushaar commiseration for poor Cecil: "to the small universe of Democratic activists within the state, Weiland's progressive principles trumped Herseth Sandlin's more-electable profile."

Krushaar gets the rest of the story wrong and just presents a laughable Guy Cecil version, a dress rehearsal for the blame that will be coming his way when he tries getting the campaign manager job for Hillary in 2016. The reason South Dakota should be one of the top DSCC priorities-- and why they should fire Guy Cecil today before he can do any further damage-- has nothing to do with the Republican primary. It has to do with the 3 Republicans running in the general election, the tainted, Establishment corporate shill, Mike Rounds, plus former Republican Senator Larry Pressler and a Tea Party fave, Gordon Howie, the latter two both running as independents-- and both peeling off votes from Rounds.

Rick Weiland can keep that South Dakota Senate seat blue and the Democrats can hold onto the Senate-- despite Guy Cecil and the DSCC. If you'd like to help make sure that happens, please consider contributing what you can to Rick's campaign.

UPDATE: Last Night's Republican Primary

Rick's campaign sent this out this morning about the South Dakota GOP Senate primary and how it served to underscore Mike Rounds' vulnerability, asking that people consider the following:
Former two term governor, Mike Rounds, spent $2.5 million dollars to win just 55% of the vote, while his four unknown opponents spent less than $75,000 on television advertising and received 45%. This should hardly be reason for optimism in the Rounds' camp.

Despite Rounds egregiously high spending, he actually LOST ground on his favorable/unfavorable scores! In October, Rounds fav/unfav score was 42%/40%, but by early May, despite spending many hundreds of thousands of dollars on soft-positive 60 second ads, Rounds not only didn't move the dial forward, he slightly moved backwards-- his fav/unfav scores were 41%/41%. The folks who don't like him--half the electorate who can rate him-- are unmoved by his ads. And it's a truism in politics that an impression, once made, is not easily changed.

One of Rounds' challenges is that he not only faces Rick Weiland in the general election, he also faces former three-term GOP U.S Senator Larry Pressler and former South Dakota GOP State Senator Gordon Howie, the latter two who certainly will draw tens of thousands of votes away from Rounds (GOP challengers to Rounds drew a combined 33,000 votes in the Senate primary yesterday).

If “Weiland can get around 45 percent of the vote, a reasonable target for a Democrat in the state, and Pressler and Howie together get more than 10 percent, Rounds could wind up coming in second.” -- Tom Lawrence, Prairie Perspective Blog– April 11, 2014

And this morning, conservative KELO radio host Greg Belfrage reiterated this point on his show-- Howie enjoys wide support among Tea Party Republicans and Pressler still appeals to "old-school" GOP voters.

The May PPP poll showed that, despite the fact that Rounds had placed far more time on TV than Rick Weiland, he actually trailed Weiland by 2% among those respondents who could rate Weiland either favorably or unfavorably, which clearly indicates that Rounds lead (10%) was due entirely to his unsurprising advantage in name identification (67% for Weiland, 82% for Rounds). As Weiland gets better known-- not difficult in a low-cost television state like South Dakota-- Rounds' lead will shrink, and then disappear.

This race remains what it has been from the start-- entirely winnable, the only question being whether Weiland will received the relatively modest amount of funding that he needs to make his case to the voters of South Dakota. If he does, it's clear that Weiland-- who is outworking Rounds every day-- could easily win.

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