South Dakota’s two biggest newspapers, the Rapid City Journal and that Sioux Falls paper, demonstrate the ability of apparently rational people to reach diametrically opposed conclusions about the same person. In big weekend primary endorsements, the Rapid City editors conclude that Chris Nelson is too “fiercely partisan” to make bipartisan collaboration happen… and the Sioux Falls editors conclude exactly the opposite.
Here’s RCJ’s take:
…Nelson doesn’t appear to be much for collaboration. Though he may characterize himself as assertive, Nelson sounded fiercely partisan during his meeting with the Rapid City Journal editorial board, trumpeting the political rhetoric which may please some in the GOP, but does not move this country forward [“EDITORIAL: Three good choices in GOP House race, Blacke [sic] Curd the top one,” Rapid City Journal, 2010.06.05].
(PP likes to talk about the “kiss of death.” I think that’s what you call it when the paper that endorses you spells your name wrong.)
And here’s what the big East River paper said:
The key for Nelson is that he doesn’t see things only in black and white or as a blue state/red state issue. He identifies fiscal responsibility as a major driver in his campaign and describes dealing with the budget deficit as more than a Republican or Democrat problem, but as an “American problem” [“Editorial: Nelson has best grasp of issues,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2010.06.06].
Yes, they really are talking about the same person.
Dear readers, you are welcome to spin whatever hypotheses you wish as to what lies behind these dueling endorsements… but your political theories must also account for the fact that both papers have endorsed Dave Knudson in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
Honestly, I think the Journal got it wrong, or at least failed to look at the big picture. Yes, Nelson made himself look silly taking the stage with Kitty Werthmann and the guns-in-school Second Amendment Sisters. And yes, Nelson deserves a kick in the pants for his yahoo answer on the bogus birther movement (although the good Dr. Blanchard makes a reasonable argument that we Dems made much more of Nelson’s non-denial than was warranted). That Sioux Falls paper makes a mistake in failing to mention Nelson’s willingness to sacrifice his mild-mannered image to pander to the primary wingnuts.
But is the RCJ serious when it suggests Nelson is more partisan than either Curd or Noem? Did the RCJ not notice the rabid tri-corner-hat wearers R. Blake was hanging out with last year at the tea parties? Did they not notice Noem’s instant appeal to the religious right, appeal so strong it drove a declared fundagelical candidate out of the race? And did they not notice Nelson’s impeccable impartial and fair execution of his duties as Secretary of State, to the extent of alienating some hard rightwingers in his own party?
If apparent partisanship is the RCJ’s criterion for denying a candidate its endorsement, then what would RCJ say about Senator John Thune and his complete resistance to bipartisanship since President Obama took office? Then again, our very partisan junior Senator proves that even South Dakota’s hard right can soften and play nice with Dems when it comes to bringing home those cherished federal earmarks.
If anything, Nelson has the best proven record of being able to work with people from all parties, a record RCJ chooses to dismiss as the putterings of “a career bureaucrat who does not have the real-world private business experience.” Curd has learned to tone down some of his tea party rhetoric, but send him to Washington, and he’ll be exactly the passionate partisan the RCJ thinks it sees in Nelson. Ditto Noem: she’s Michele Bachmann in ranch boots (expensive, federally subsidized ranch boots).
Chris Nelson has made me queasy with his wingnut moments and wimpy Web content (though his Tweets are the best found-object art of the primary season). He’s made Republican supporters nervous with his lackluster fundraising. But when Nelson wins the primary Tuesday (and he will, 45–28–27), as Republicans won’t gamble a good year on relative newcomers who are still learning on the campaign trail), he will change tack. Nelson will turn down the wingnut talk, target the Herseth middle, and start tapping fresh donors. And his Republican friends, hungry for battle, will happily pour on the cash for the main event.