Thinking he has a good thing going, upcoming KSOO radio host Patrick Lalley extends his argument that South Dakota Democrats erred in holding Billie Sutton’s campaign announcement at his ranch on the banks of the Missouri River.
First, let’s point out that it is incorrect to say “South Dakota Democrats” erred. While the presence of prominent South Dakota Democrats like Max Sandlin, Bernie Hunhoff, Scott Parsley, and party chair Ann Tornberg signals Sutton’s status as a party favorite, there is no sign that Sutton campaign decisions are made at party headquarters. Billie Sutton is his own man, and he, like any other candidate, can choose to announce his campaign wherever he wishes. If any error occurred, it was Sutton’s, not South Dakota Democrats’.
Second, Lalley is working really hard to pre-synecdochize the whole of Sutton’s campaign with one small part that cannot represent a whole that does not yet exist. Lalley rickety-tacks together statistics and speculation to assert that the only voters Sutton can win are in Lalley’s idiosyncratic conception of the Sioux Falls metro area. Lalley then assumes that when Sutton wheels up to Sioux Falls voters six months, six weeks, six days before Election Day, the impression he makes will be completely overwhelmed by their long memories of how seventeen months before the election, way back when Trump was still President, that darned yahoo held his first campaign event on his remote ranch instead of downtown at the Holiday Inn. That’s as absurd as thinking that Sutton secured the vote of every beef eater by announcing on his ranch and serving beef sandwiches one day seventeen months before the election.
Now sure, as the campaign rolls on, if Sutton does nothing but attend rodeos and issue Facebook communiqués from the ranch, we’ll all be shouting Lalley’s refrain: Billie! You’ve got a couple hundred thousand votes to pick up—go to town! But Sutton has already put the lie to Lalley’s thesis by going to Lalley’s town right after the ranch announcement. A guy can only be in one place at a time. Sutton spent the first hour of his campaign at the ranch, but he spent the first day of his campaign working town and country. If the full seventeen months of the Sutton campaign look like his first day, he’ll be investing sufficient time in the voters Lalley places at the center of his universe and the many more voters who constitute the full South Dakota political universe.
Speaking of universes, Lalley’s universe is oddly constructed. Far exceeding the Census Bureau’s four-county read, Lalley extends the Sioux Falls metro area out to Brookings and Vermillion. He posits that Rapid City is hopeless for Sutton. He doesn’t mention Watertown, Huron, or Aberdeen (where I hear Sutton is making some in-person calls today). And he has yet to mention in either of his “Dems screwed up, Sioux Falls is all that matters” essays the Indian vote in Sisseton, Fort Thompson, Eagle Butte, Mission, or Pine Ridge, where the issue is not swaying voters toward the Democratic Party but swaying them to register and vote (which the SDDP is working on).
Lalley acknowledges at the end of yesterday’s essay that “Your average political operative spends way, way, way more time with this stuff than I do….” He’s right about that. The only circumstances under which an average political operative would tell a statewide candidate, “Hey, let’s spend all of our time between Brookings and Vermillion,” would be a hopeless vanity run where the candidate can’t marshal the resources to drive more than two hours and spend the night away from Sioux Falls and thus counts on Facebook and KELO TV to get his name out to the 50% of our Democratic base and 47% of the electorate that Lalley treats as not worth Democrats’ time.
The campaign will be much longer than each candidate’s opening day. Sutton at least made an impression with his launch (remind me: when and where did Kristi Noem and Marty Jackley announce?) and is getting all sorts of press from Lalley and other statewide media. And if the point of a rollout is to win attention, then Sutton’s rollout, far from an error, is a home run.