Posts Tagged ‘Herseth-Sandlin’

The Sad State of South Dakota Democrats

Posted: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 11:47 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
6 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

mcgovernI grew up in a one party state.  I escaped in my early twenties by driving my Ford Maverick across the borders when an ice storm confused the authorities.  The one party state was Arkansas, and I can tell you that it was not a model of political excellence.

One party states encourage corruption and diminish the power of the voters to punish it.  Voters can rarely get a grasp of the powers that work around the tables, day to day, in their state government offices.  When there are two competitive parties, voters can punish large blocks of legislators.  With each party hoping to gain on the other in the next election, there is some general incentive for reducing corruption and promoting good government.  When there is only one effective party, the worst excesses result in a few individuals taking all the blame.  The larger body of scoundrels remains immune to censure.

As state governments go, the Republic of South Dakota is pretty good.  Unlike, say, California, there are fewer forces corrupting our legislative chambers and our state house.  But we should worry when one of our two great parties seems to be fading faster than tomatoes after the first frost.

Yesterday South Dakota Democrats failed to win a single state wide race.  The gubernatorial election was won by a Republican, which happens so often you’d think it’s in the state constitution.  The constitutional offices were swept by the GOP.  Our lone representative to the U.S. Congress, Representative Herseth Sandlin, lost by a narrow but sufficient margin to her Republican opponent.  To her credit, Herseth Sandlin was the only Democrat to win more than 40% of the vote in a state wide race.  Our junior U.S. Senator, John Thune, had no opponent.  This was the only non-contested Senate race in the nation and the first in the state’s history.

I heard a rumor that the Democrats decided not to field a Senate candidate in order to reduce Senator Thune’s incentive to involve himself in this year’s state politics.  I have no idea if that is true, and if it isn’t I apologize for repeating it.  If it is true, it’s damning.  I mention it because I can’t understand why else they couldn’t find someone, anyone, to run.  The uncontested race is a scandal in itself.

If all that weren’t bad enough, the showing of Democrats showing in the state legislative races was worse.  Democrats won just 20 out of the 70 seats in the state House of Representatives.  I haven’t calculated the vote totals, but that’s less than a third of the House.

It doesn’t get better in the State Senate, where Democrats won just six of thirty five seats.  That’s going to stretch those six Senators mighty thin across the Senate committees.

To say that the South Dakota Democratic Party is in disarray is misleading.  The problem is not organizational but existential.  The party is on the point of going clean out of business.  It is effectively dysfunctional.  Maybe the State House is beyond their reach, but clearly the House and Senate seats are not.  The party is going to need someone to run against Kristi Noem in two years.  Tim Johnson is going to retire, sooner or later.  In those contests, the Democrats have no bench.

South Dakota needs a viable opposition party.  It needs someone like George McGovern to reorganize it, county by county, rebuilding the local party apparatus.  Someone like Tom Daschle could have done that.  But Daschle, set free by defeat, had neither the time nor the interest for his state or its affairs.  What is Stephanie Herseth Sandlin going to do, now that she has time on her hands?  I am guessing she is not going to stick around.

There is a tragic flaw in the South Dakota Democrat.  The best of that species tend to look beyond our borders for greater things.  The voters frequently recognize that, and in an act of grace, set them free.  Meanwhile, the party withers.  This is not good for Democrats in the state, or for the state itself.

Some other interesting SD election numbers

Posted: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 4:50 pm
By: Doug Wiken
1 Comment | Trackback Bookmark and Share

Lots of speculation today about the impact of the Marking campaign on the race between Herseth-Sandlin and Noem.  Marking got something like 19,000 votes out of around 319,454.

More interesting than that number however are the numbers in the “race” between John Thune and Nobody. Out of the total of around 320,000 votes, Thune got around 228,000 votes.  Nobody got around 92,000 “votes” or roughly 5 times as many as Marking if we assume the same numbers of people looked at that part of the ballot.

The GOP calendar hunk Thune is not universally admired even if the SD media continually seemed to misrepresent his vote as “100%”.   You can check the actual numbers at SD Secretary of State Election Page.   I still have no idea why South Dakota and National Democratic Party failed to run a candidate against empty suit Thune. 

The most cogent (even if snarky)  remark I have read today was by Bill Fleming at Decorum forum in response to a question concerning what Kristi Noem did right and wrong.  Fleming said she did wrong by telling campaign lies, and that she did right by telling campaign lies.

*** Stay is nearly two years until the next election — Doug Wiken


Post Mortem in the Wee Hours

Posted: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 12:25 am
By: Ken Blanchard
Comments Off | Trackback Bookmark and Share

For much of the last year I have been arguing with my friends at Badlands Blue and the Madville Times about the Rasmussen polls on the South Dakota U.S. House race.  They argued that Rasmussen was biased in favor of Republicans, and it appears that they were right.  Rasmussen’s last poll gave Kristi Noem a five point lead.  It looks like Noem’s margin of victory will be a little less than three percent.  I could take refuge in the margin of error, but I prefer to be magnanimous in victory.

I speak here not as a Republican but as a political nerd.  By victory I mean only that I have been predicting a Noem win based on a number of indicators.  Maybe I am biased as well, but I wasn’t wrong.

Why did Noem win?  Over the next several days there will be a lot of post mortems.  It looks to me pretty simple.  Herseth Sandlin did well in all the traditional Democratic strongholds in the state.  Noem surged everywhere else, racking up large margins in county after county.  Two things, I think, explain this.  One is that a lot more South Dakotans can identify with Kristi than with Stephanie.  The second is that the Republican wave that swept across these United States did in fact wash across South Dakota.

At this hour, it looks like the Republicans have bagged at least 57 seats in the House of Representatives.  That gave Orange John Boehner the opportunity to give an acceptance speech.  He choked up a couple of times.  He is going to be Speaker.  A lot of seats are yet to be determined, so it may well go over sixty.  It might not reach the seventies, which last happened in 1938.  It is going to be well over the Republican surge of 1994.  That might be a good thing and it might be a bad one, but it is a thang, as my Southern brethren say, and it’s a big thang.

Republicans fell short of immortal fame in the Senate races, if only because the bar was set so high.  They have bagged six Senate seats, and will probably get two more: Colorado and Alaska.  Harry Reid survived, and that is one of the great heroic stories that Democrats are well-entitled to tell.  However, Mitch McConnell will have forty-one votes when he needs them, and that changes the board.

What astonishes me about this election cycle is how stable it has been.  Fifty plus seats in the House and eight Senate seats is what the wizards have been predicting all year.  The game was fixed as early as summer a year ago.  That is food for thought.

Noem Defeats Herseth Sandlin

Posted: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 11:19 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
Comments Off | Trackback Bookmark and Share

I called it!  With 779 of 791 precincts reporting, Kristi Noem has 48.3% of the vote to Herseth Sandlin’s 45.7%.  That is well over the threshold for an automatic recount, and it seems very unlikely that there are enough votes outstanding to overcome Noem’s lead of about 8,000 out of more than 300,000 votes cast.

One last Nugget of Nerd’s Candy from the House Race

Posted: Saturday, October 30, 2010 at 11:30 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
Comments Off | Trackback Bookmark and Share

weather sdThe SD U.S. House race remains the most interesting election in South Dakota, both here and nationally.  My colleague Professor Schaff has done a great job of putting some of the numbers in perspective.  I can’t resist making some final comments.  This is my last post on this race.  No foolin’.

As weather patterns become visible to meteorologists when they create models based on pressure systems and fronts, so voting patterns become visible to political scientists when they build models consisting of voting blocks and population dynamics.

In the U.S., the most important voting blocks are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.  The outcome of an election is determined by three factors: 1) the relative size of each voting bloc; 2) the direction each bloc is moving; and 3) how much of each bloc turns out.

While candidates try very hard to influence all three of these factors, they really have only a marginal influence.  A good candidate running a good campaign can change the final outcome only if the forces are in virtual balance.  The only thing that is likely to shift the forces described above in a dramatic way is a scandal serious enough to undermine one of the candidates.

In the South Dakota House race, the first factor is easy to gage.  According to the Secretary of State’s website, voter registration numbers are:

Republican    237, 809

Democrat      194,204

Independent  85,296

That obviously gives the Republican a significant advantage but it also means that independent voters will decide the election.  If the Republican advantage over Democrats holds in the election and if independents split or break Republican, then the Republican will win.  The Democrat can win if independents break strongly enough in her direction.

Of course, some registered Republicans will vote for the Democrat and vice versa.  That is the second factor.  Professor Schaff’s post parses the numbers.  Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is a familiar incumbent and she has clearly done a good job of attracting Republican votes in the past.  According to the Keloland poll (Mason-Dixon) HS is doing a bit better at attracting Republican votes than Noem at attracting Democrats.

It seems likely that the third factor will be most important in determining the outcome here as it has been doing elsewhere.  Polls showing Herseth Sandlin leading all assume that Democratic turnout will be at least as robust this year as in the last two years.  Indeed almost all the difference in the various polls results from differences in estimating this factor.

All year long Republicans have enjoyed two major advantages in state after state.  Republican voters are turning out in large numbers and independent voters are swinging robustly toward the GOP.  This is measured not only in opinion polls but in actual elections and primary elections.  More people voted in Republican primaries this year than in Democratic primaries, something that is unprecedented.

It is possible, to be sure, that South Dakota will buck that trend.  Democrats may turn out in numbers more like those in 2008.  Republicans and independents may not show the pronounced preference for GOP candidates that the polls indicate nationally.

The only real numbers we have to go on suggest something else.  Here are the numbers of new registered voters in each voting bloc since Oct. 1st.

Republican      1,903

Independent   1,497

Democrat            900

These numbers measure two things, both of which are more real than poll samples.  One is people bothering to register to vote.  The other is people bothering to encourage them to register.  A more than two to one advantage for Republicans over Democrats suggests that the national GOP wave is building here as it is elsewhere.  Among recent registered voters, the Democrats have become a third party.

This post on the House race and my last are nerd’s candy.  I don’t know what is going to happen on Tuesday, and neither do you.  I am not a gambling man but, if I were, I’d bet on a Noem victory.  Three days from now we will know whether I would have collected.

Noem v Herseth Sandlin

Posted: Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 11:20 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
3 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

Maybe the last good poll for Representative Herseth Sandlin comes from Penn, Shoen, and Berland, courtesy of The Hill:

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) leads Republican Kristi Noem 45 percent to 42, with 10 percent of likely voters undecided, according to The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll.

Well, a lead is a lead.  I still can’t help notice that Herseth Sandlin has yet to break 50%.  There has been a bit of a controversy among pollsters over this question: is an incumbent below 50% likely to lose?  Whatever may be true typically, in a wave year the answer is typically yes.

A ten percent undecided is a lot of undecided.  If that ten percent breaks evenly, then HS wins by a hair.  If it breaks six to four for Noem, it goes the other way.  Perhaps South Dakota is somehow insulated from the larger national currents.  That is what you have to believe to believe the Penn poll.  They have Democrats more passionate about voting than Republicans.  I am skeptical.

I also notice that the Penn firm has Pomeroy ahead in North Dakota.  The only competing poll is Rasmussen, which has Berg ahead of Pomeroy by ten points.  Maybe Rasmussen is biased toward Republicans, but biased by ten points?

Rasmussen and Mason-Dixon have Noem up by five and two respectively.  Unless Dakota really is another planet, Noem has more reason to be hopeful.

I also notice that Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight rates North Dakota as an 83% chance of a Republican victory.  He has reduced the chances of a Republican victory in South Dakota from the mid-seventies to 69%.  That looks about right to me.

We’re now in the zone.  The last bits of information trickle in, but we mostly have to wait.  I will be surprised if Noem doesn’t win.  Not shocked, but surprised.

Noem Likely

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
8 Comments | Trackback Bookmark and Share

The South Dakota U.S. House race has attracted national attention.  If Herseth Sandlin survives her campaign will serve as a model for relatively conservative Democrats in the vast middle of the country.  If she does not, it will serve as a model for conservative challengers and a challenge to the very idea of the Blue Dog coalition.

The race looks to me the same as it has looked all year long: our incumbent Representative is in trouble.  One indication of this is an ad run on Herseth Sandlin’s behalf by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


This ad has been subject to criticism from both sides of the aisle in South Dakota.  It is certainly over the top, but it was also the most entertaining ad of the season.  With the John Carpenter horror sound track and the “Kristi is on her way to kill your children theme,” what’s not to like?

What I find interesting is the fact that it runs at all.  The SHS campaign has already produced one ad on the issue, and it was a good one.  This is a serious enough issue and you can hardly blame any campaign for exploiting something like this.  Ticket gate is the one issue that gave the SHS campaign some traction.

The trouble is, running a second ad on the topic seems ill-advised.  It dilutes the seriousness of the original point and it looks like a transparent case of milking the one good cow.  To run an ad so over the top looks like a sign of desperation.

The South Dakota House race, like the electorate national (as I have argued recently), has been remarkably stable.  SHS has been stuck below fifty percent all year.  Except for the brief turbulence cased by the eruption of Ticketgate, Kristi Noem has been consistently ahead since she won the nomination.

Rasmussen confirms the trend.

The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely Voters shows Noem, a state legislator, picking up 49% of the vote, while Herseth-Sandlin draws support from 44%. Two percent (2%) prefer some other candidate, and five percent (5%) are still undecided.

Assuming that’s right, Noem has only to pick up two percent from the “prefer another” and undecided voters.  Herseth Sandlin has to win all seven percent.  Undecided voters tend to break for challengers; but even if they don’t, they are unlikely all to break for SHS.

Nate Silver lately of the New York Times, who has been friendlier to Democrats than most poll analysts, gives Noem a 78% chance of taking the seat.

All the indications at our disposal point toward a victory for Kristi Noem.

Spotlight@Northern presents Noem, Marking, & Herseth Sandlin

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2010 at 10:29 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
Comments Off | Trackback Bookmark and Share

Professor Schaff and I completed our interviews with the candidates for the at large House of Representatives seat this afternoon.  Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin sat down with us and answered our questions for about a half hour.

I don’t know for certain when the Spotlight House Show will be available.  When it is, you can view it on local channel 12 at 9:30am, 1:30pm, and 8:30pm.  Sometime on Monday the show should be posted on the web.  You should find the link here:  The whole thing will be about two hours long.

A few comments are in order.  I am very impressed with the caliber of candidates that South Dakota has produced.  I found myself liking all three, and I wish that the average voter could get more exposure to them.  If you watch all three interviews, you will get a good idea of the strengths of each candidate, and the political cultures that each represents.

One thing I learned today is that Congresswoman Herseth Sandlin came within a chapter of completing a PhD in political science.  But don’t hold that against her.

Spotlight@Northern greets Noem, Marking, & Herseth Sandlin

Posted: Friday, October 15, 2010 at 10:58 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
Comments Off | Trackback Bookmark and Share

spotlightToday Professor Schaff and yours truly interviewed Kristi Noem for our political TV show, Spotlight@Northern.  Next week we will interview the independent candidate for the South Dakota at large U.S. House seat, B. Thomas Marking, and incumbent Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.  Our special House Election show will probably be up on channel 12 by Friday or Saturday.  We are devoting thirty minutes to each candidate.  The whole show will probably run about two hours.

If you are in the Aberdeen area you can watch on channel 12.  If you are out of that area or wish to watch online, you can view the show at this link: Spotlight@Northern.

Spotlight is the brainchild of the NSU TV technomages.  Professor Schaff and I had a hand in planning it.  If you are interested in seeing the candidates for state and local offices explain themselves, we have a show for you.

South Dakota House Race

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 1:12 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
Comments Off | Trackback Bookmark and Share

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is reducing its commitment to the Herseth-Sandlin campaign from $500,000 to $350,000, according to Bob Mercer.  There are a number of ways to interpret this.  One is that it has little or nothing to do with how the race is shaping up here.  It’s just a reflection of Democratic difficulties nationally.  From Charlie Cook at the Cook Report:

Frighteningly for Democrats, this past week’s Federal Election Commission reports show that five GOP-affiliated outside groups have laid down a combined $17.9 million in 50 Democratic-held House seats, more than making up for the vaunted cash edge the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has enjoyed over the National Republican Congressional Committee all cycle.

As Cook reads it, Democrats failed to spend enough in September and are now playing catch up.  Perhaps this, along with the unusually high number of vulnerable incumbents, means that the DCCC just doesn’t have any more money to give the HS campaign.

By contrast, it might be that they view HS is more comfortable than she appears, and don’t think she needs as much help as previously projected.  That possibility was suggested by Mercer today.

A Republican friend recently told me he had seen results by a respected Republican-oriented pollster who’s NOT working the U.S. House of Representatives race in South Dakota — and the pollster had Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin leading Republican challenger Kristi Noem by a margin of 5 percentage points, just outside the margin of error, in the early October survey. If that information was accurately relayed to me, it might explain why the Democratic congressional campaign organization has downgraded Herseth Sandlin’s promised $500,000 of aid to $350,000 — because she doesn’t need it.

That is certainly possible, but it doesn’t square well with the latest fundraising reports.  From the Politico:

South Dakota Republican Kristi Noem raised twice as much money as Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in the past three months, promising one of the most expensive House races in South Dakota in the past decade.

Noem raised $1.1 million during July, August and September, bringing her total haul to over $1.6 million this cycle. Herseth Sandlin raised close to $550,000, and has also raised more than $1.6 million.

Noem’s haul eliminates the hefty financial advantage that observers expected Herseth Sandlin to enjoy. She has more money to spend in the final three weeks of the campaign, $770,000 to Herseth Sandlin’s $500,000.

Consider that in light of voter registration numbers in South Dakota, also from Bob Mercer, and discussed in detail by my colleague Professor Schaff.

Here are the voter registration numbers as of Oct. 1. Republican registration was 235,906. That was a gain of 880 during September. Democratic registration was 193,304. That was a gain of 335 during September. Independent registration was 83,799. That was an increase of 822.

There is also the fact that the DCCC is pulling money out of races all over the country in which Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times calls “triage.”

As Republicans made new investments in at least 10 races across the country, including two Democratic seats here in eastern Ohio, Democratic leaders took steps to pull out of some races entirely or significantly cut their financial commitment in several districts that the party won in the last two election cycles.

It just seems unlikely that the Democrats would be pulling money out from under Herseth-Sandlin if she was in fact five points ahead.