Patience, Democrats: No Need to Announce Against Thune and Noem Until 2016

Bob Mercer dedicates his his weekend column to cataloguing the dozen ballot measures we may get to vote on next year (listing eleven, Mercer doesn’t mention Rick Weiland’s brainchild, the anti-corruption initiative). He finds this surge in direct democracy anything but “normal.” I find it thrilling.

But Mercer concludes his ballot-measure sampler with this political observation:

Meanwhile, with the State Fair six weeks away, there aren’t announced Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents John Thune for U.S. Senate and Kristi Noem for U.S. House.

Zany? Indeed [Bob Mercer, “Pick Your Adjectives for the 2016 Ballot, But Skip Past ‘Normal’,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.07.18].

What? A dozen ballot issues to talk about, and Bob Mercer thinks we need candidates to bat around?

Democrats (and everybody else), don’t let Bob Mercer fool you. There is nothing “zany” about not having declared candidates on the ballot eight months before the filing deadline and sixteen months before the election. John Thune didn’t announce his run against Tom Daschle until January 2004. Kristi Noem didn’t pop into the House race against Stephanie Herseth Sandlin until February 2010.

Democrats, I’ll actually argue you shouldn’t announce until after New Year’s Day. Here’s why:

  1. Keep the Republicans guessing.
  2. Keep the Republicans complacent.
  3. Keep your job: odds are that if you choose to run for Congress, you’ll have to quit your day job and campaign full-time. Keep cool, keep working, keep making grocery money, and hit the campaign-launch/job-eject button as late as possible (remember, Kevin Weiland showed you can get enough signatures to run in one week).
  4. Keep your powder dry: Do you really think people at the State Fair or anywhere else other than the blogosphere will be paying that much attention to the House and Senate races this summer, or this fall? No! Save your assault for the election year.
  5. Keep out of the line of fire: if the Republicans take you seriously (and if you’re serious about running, you’d better be serious about waging a campaign that would force Republicans to take you seriously), they will attack. Why give them an extra eight months to do opposition research and lob grenades at your character, your family, your education and travel and superior intellect?
  6. Keep cool on fundraising: whether you start raising campaign cash now or next March, you will not catch up with John Thune’s or Kristi Noem’s millions. The additional cash you might be able to raise from a few attentive donors this early probably won’t be worth the extra expense and hassle you’ll incur from running a longer campaign.
  7. Keep quiet: don’t piddle around with fake online draft movements or trial balloons. If you want to run, you should believe in yourself enough now that you don’t need to “test the waters” to see if other people believe in you. Believe that you can deliver the policies and the pitch that will make people believe in you. Talk to some friends, talk to some smart people for advice, but by Gaia swear them to secrecy so they don’t leak to the blogs (I suffer a grave conflict of interest here) and torpedo all the advantages I’m trying to explain to you here!
  8. Keep your sanity: do you really want to spend sixteen months applying for a job and sleeping someplace other than your bed with your spouse in your home? Do you really want to spend sixteen months making the same speech and half of that time to crowds that will be small because it’s too early for people to pay attention anyway? Save yourself a lot of stress and do South Dakota a favor by doing everything you can to condense our excessively long campaign season.
  9. Keep the attention on the ballot measures: We’ve got a bunch of petitions circulating right now. Let those measures (especially redistricting, the interest-rate cap, and the constitutional amendment to strengthen initiative and referendum) have the spotlight at this year’s State Fair. Come to the Fair and help circulate petitions—it’ll be good practice for your own campaigning come next spring. And by helping get those measures on the ballot, you give yourself, Mr. or Ms. Candidate, some good issues to talk about as you run against the corrupt and anti-democratic Republican monolith that your opponent represents (true, the statewide ballot measures deal more with state affairs than the national affairs you’ll discuss in a Senate or House race, but a creative candidate can find some rhetorical leverage with the ballot measures).

Bob Mercer just needed a good line to wrap up a sprawling essay about diverse ballot measures. He’s not offering good campaign advice. Democrats, if you want to launch your Congressional campaign this early, have at it. But I see no competitive advantage to starting this early and possible advantages to waiting to spring your aspirations on South Dakota next spring.

34 Responses to Patience, Democrats: No Need to Announce Against Thune and Noem Until 2016

  1. Long ago, campaigns were won with “pot hole” discussions. Yes, candidates would speak of what they were going to do about them and how the other candidate did absolutely nothing about them. Today, South Dakotans pay, on the average, an extra $324.00 per year for those crumbling infrastructure disgraces we call safe highways. What has Tehran John and NOem done about them? Natta, zilch, forgetaboutit that is what they have done. Now three hundred bucks may not sound like a lot of moolah, but when you factor in our total population of about a million, then you have what the adults call, a lot of hay. No one needs to toss the hat in the ring yet, but it would not hurt to remind South Dakota Fair goers that coming to Huron by horseless carriage is a very expensive item for them. The fair goers should also be reminded that there do nothing congress folk are costing them even when their heap is sitting in the garage.

  2. Maybe South Dakota fairgoers need to be reminded of how Tehran John and NOem support the Keystone XL and all things evil. Here is the latest pipeline rupture with heavy crude in a “safe” pipeline Sure, it is just Canada, but it is also the same crap they want to push through over our water.

  3. Canada fears the pipelines, why doesn’t Tehran John and NOem feel the same?

  4. Porter Lansing

    Let the Republic candidates run unopposed. I see no one worthy, at this time. The right one will surface all in good time. Losing is worse than not playing until the playing field is leveled.

  5. Roger Elgersma

    Just because campaigns got started to early the last few years does not mean that we all have to do that as well. Sure if someone wants to start early let them. Sure the national republicans have about sixteen presidential candidates but it will take that long for them to all shoot themselves in the foot like they did last time. Starting this early drags it out to long anyways.
    Our ballot issues are what they are. You can not find dirt on a ballot issue like you can on a candidate. So we have some great ballot issues so we should present, push, and use them to the max at the state fair and make sure no one sabotages them. This will take very clear explainations on them since some have twisted them in the past to defeat them.

  6. Roger Cornelius

    Mercer and the SDGOP don’t get to pick our candidates and when they will announce, they seem to be trying to force the issue, we have time to do the things Cory suggests and do things our way and not Mercer or the SDGOP way.

  7. David Newquist

    You all are correct in seeing the pointlessness of early announcements and long campaigns. All they do is give GOP operatives a long time to do their “opposition research” and implement their character assassination and misinformation campaigns, which has been proven effective with South Dakota voters during the last decade. What the Democrats need to do now is examine and publicize the legislative records of Thune and Noem. Larry Prressler was defeated largely because the press, led by Jack Anderson (who called him Press-release Pressler) began to report on the ways Pressler was acting like a doofus. Thune has out doofused Pressler ten times over. And Noem has joined the harem kept by corporate agriculture and led to the displacement of farms in the state by industrial agriculture. These issues can go to the State Fair now.

  8. Roger Cornelius

    A perfect example of early announcements is today’s top political story. Donald Trump’s attack on Sen. John McCain’s military service and patriotism will likely cause him to drop out or be forced out by the national republican party.
    Trump’s entering the race early gives him all the time he needs to keep saying stupid things to fill time. By tomorrow the political polls will show his rapid descent.
    I am enjoying the republicans fighting and eating each other.
    Any bets on whether FOX “News” will allow Trump in their Aug. 6 debates?

  9. mike from iowa

    Citizen’s United might bite wingnuts in the butt. They have all these unekectable nutjobs gathering and spending millions calling each other names while the more serious candidate( I said that with a straight faced keyboard) can’t get a word in edgewise plus they are all pulling each other off the flat earth to the right.

    OTOH,wingnuts in South Dakota have to have an idea who their competition is and there is nothing stopping them from attacking undeclared,potential candidates and the whole liberal establishment for the next 16 months or so.

  10. Porter Lansing

    There are issue’s times and there are candidate’s times. It seems the voters are more apt to change the issues this campaign.

  11. Jerry, you make a very good point about Congress’s failure to restart the Highway Bill (arguably worse than Noem’s dilly-dallying on the Farm Bill 2012–2014). But to get that message to stick with voters, does that message brought now in fair-booth conversations need to be tied to a candidate who promises to do better?

  12. Jerry, maybe the best way to put that message in fair-goers’ minds is to buy some billboards on Highway 14 and Highway 37:

    These potholes brought to you by John Thune, Kristi Noem, and Mike Rounds.
    Thanks for nothing, Congress!
    Enough Party Politics—Pass the Highway Bill

    Know any interest groups who’d like to fund billboards like that?

  13. Roger, I hope the time-biding I recommend does not allow some weak candidate to sneak in and not be vetted sufficiently before the election. I would think that an attentive press and electorate should be able to weed out bad candidates within a primary season… but I suppose that’s a risk for the party: if a candidate does wait until February 2016 to announce, we Dems will need to make a pretty quick judgment about whether that person is a suitable standard bearer or whether we need to recruit Kevin Weiland or Joe Lowe to beat that candidate in the primary.

  14. Mike, don’t give them too much credit. They thought they had Brendan Johnson in their sights, but then he didn’t run, denying them the chance to use all their pre-fab arguments. (Then again, maybe the GOP succeeded in scaring him away from running?)

    Paula Hawks has already signaled she’s interested in running for House, so the GOP is probably already building their file on her. Now they have to figure out who the logical choice is to run against Thune. Let them keep guessing.

  15. Porter, how is losing worse the forfeiting? Let’s analyze: what were the pluses and minuses of running no one against Thune in 2010? What were the net pluses and minuses of running Weiland against Rounds in 2014 and losing?

  16. Cory, I really like your billboard idea, that is a beautiful thing!

    These potholes brought to you by John Thune, Kristi Noem, and Mike Rounds.
    Thanks for nothing, Congress!
    Enough Party Politics—Pass the Highway Bill

    Know any interest groups who’d like to fund billboards like that? Yes, I think I may know of one. It is called the South Dakota Democratic Party. They need to get in the game and that would be a good way to bring that to the people’s attention.

    Now, we need one about Tehran John and NOem’s deep thoughts on killing Medicare along with Social Security. Any thoughts on those?

  17. Roger Cornelius

    I must respectfully disagree with Porter that not running anyone would be a good idea. South Democrats cannot afford to totally concede our elected politicians to the republicans.

    Win or lose the election we must continue to get our message out by showing the corruption and political abuse republicans have been getting away with, hopefully the republican party minions will one day realize what republicans have done or not done for this state.
    The question and campaign message for John Thune must be, what have you done for South Dakotans since you have been in the senate. If republicans even dare to be honest and answer that question, they won’t be able to give an acceptable answer.
    I haven’t checked, but I guessing that somewhere in Powers Dump Site he has already attacked Paula Hawks for even thinking about running against Noem.
    The problem Democrats made in 2014 were the candidates that refused to run on President Obama’s record, what do they really have to lose by doing so?

  18. Agreed Roger, and what about not taking any kind of campaign money from national Democrats? You cannot get your message out without moolah. You can sing all the songs you want to, but what if no one hears them? You may have won your battle, but you have lost the war.

  19. Roger Cornelius

    You’re absolutely right Jerry.

    Until Citizens United is overturned and we have a Constitutional amendment against buying elections, Democrats need to take money from anyone that has any.
    Rick got caught in that quandary where he said he wouldn’t take dark money, but had to relent when things weren’t going well. Candidates should not break promises.

  20. What really enrages Mr. H is that Mr. Mercer is a professional journalist and is getting rich.

  21. larry kurtz

    The GOP is a hate group.

  22. South Dakota propagandists probably do pretty well during the political season. As Democrats are reported as pretty lowly, you can bet they are not able to feather “journalists” with walking around moolah. There is an abundance of well heeled organizations that the seek to preserve the financial benfits of the status quo. Who do you think they like to pal around with Mr. Grudznick?

  23. Tehran John has 11 million in the bank and counting. That should be put in front of the fair goers as well. Why does he need so much moolah in South Dakota, unless you are buying your seat? Do South Dakota residents even think that there is no corruption with a bankroll like that? That is 11 bucks per belly button in South Dakota. Tehran John could buy a meal at Applebee’s for each one of those belly button’s in his state. There are a lot of very poor folk that should wonder about his wealth and what he has done to earn that from the powers that be for not doing a damn thing here. He does nothing and has 11 million like El Chapo.

  24. Roger Cornelius

    I think Grudz just told us where that missing EB-5 money went. That’s the only way South Dakota journalist get rich.

  25. larry kurtz

    If I don’t detect any sign of life from SDDP in 24 hours I am pulling all my support and backing the Libertarian Party agenda in South Dakota.

  26. SDDP needs to get on the ball. More oil spills all over and no one is questioning Tehran John or the NOem about their blind support for their Chinese overlords. China owns that spilling outfit and they have interests in the black snake here. These are not safe period. The EB-5 that their widdle buddy Mike Rounds pulled is just one more dot to connect to the wholesale sell out to China. This Keystone XL needs some fire from the SDDP

  27. Well, Jerry, send that billboard idea to SDDP HQ PDQ! (But I wonder if we need to wait for the exec to start to take any action.) Time is of the essence: a billboard on Iran right now would be particularly good, given our President’s success in getting a deal without going to war.

    Hey, Roger, can we salvage anything by running on Obama’s record now? Does a candidate need to defend the President’s two terms of achievement, or does the candidate need to brand himself/herself as a Democrat of the flavor of our new Presidential nominee?

  28. Larry, what?!

    Seriously, what sign of life do you want to see in 24 hours (essentially one working day) that would warrant not changing political direction? And what sign of life do you see in the Libertarian Party that makes you think your agenda will get any better attention?

    Remember, the Libertarians get three extra weeks to circulate their party-forming petitions thanks to the diligent efforts of the Democratic Party and its circulators who could just as easily have said, “Forget 69; we’re going to focus on the youth minimum wage.”

  29. Meanwhile Pat Powers continues to miss the point. He notes that Wismer and Robinson started late as challengers and got nowhere. He ignores the fact the Thune and Noem started late as challengers and won.

    In usual jerk mode, Powers also portrays this blog post as “Democrats” (plural!) “currently (and laughably) floating trial balloons to diminish expectations that they’ll have anyone competent stepping forth to run for Congress or the US Senate this year.” I’m not floating any trial balloon, and I’m not doing so on behalf of any Democrats. I’m giving what I think is the best advice for any Democrats thinking about running for House or Senate. Bide your time, and be ready to go big on fundraising and media on day one of a blessedly shorter, more intense, more attention-grabbing campaign.

  30. Peace with Iran? Yes, Thanks President Obama!

    Better Peace

    Than Rest in Peace

  31. Bob Newland

    The ‘Pubs consistently put up incompetent clowns (witness Jason Gant, Phat Phough’s old burger buddy). However, it is true that there appear to be no Democrats in SoDak who can strike a resonant chord even against the finger-up-their-own-butts ignorant clowns who pass for Republicans. Roman Hruska (look up his accomplishments) would look like an intellectual against all but a literal handful of the Republican officeholders in SoDak.

  32. if 175k dems vote with 109k indeps, 243k repubs lose, according to mercer’s numbers! 85 repub vs. 20 dem legislators is an ugly ratio. how about the massive repub number of elected officials state-wide?

  33. Bob, you’re right: our Legislature epitomizes Hruska’s vaunted mediocrity. Where are our statesmen, our real intellectual leaders?

    Leslie, I like the D+I > R math… but can we count on Indies to donate and vote? 85:20 is ugly, but when 243:175 prevails proportionately in almost every district, it may be surprising that Dems still win as many seats as they do. There’s no substitute for registering more Democrats.

  34. yup. where are they?