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Primary Predictions: Johnson Wins Cleanly, Jackley Has Precarious Edge

Within 40 hours, Tim Bjorkman and Billie Sutton will learn whom they get to beat in the November elections for U.S. House and Governor. Within an hour (4 p.m. Central today on The Patrick Lalley Show on KSOO!) I’ll predict who the Republican victors in Tuesday’s big primary races will be.

I perch my predictions (bolded below) on the tips of horns of unicorns dancing on the following stilts:

  1. This Republican primary offers two interesting races with multiple competitive candidates. That will drive up turnout.
  2. The 2002 Republican primary offered comparable interesting races for U.S. House (Janklow, Pressler, Amdahl, Hunt, Tollefson) and Governor (Rounds, Barnett, Kirby) and drew 50.7% of registered Republicans to the polls.
  3. The 2010 Republican primary offered a similarly competitive U.S. House race (Noem, Nelson, Curd) and slightly less competitive Governor’s race (Daugaard, Munsterman, Knudson, Howie, Knuppe) and drew about 35% GOP turnout (interestingly, slightly higher in the less competitive Governor’s race).
  4. The 2014 Republican primary offered an interesting cast but less competitive characters in the U.S. Senate contest (Rounds, Rhoden, Nelson, Bosworth, Ravnsborg) and a non-competitive Governor’s race (Daugaard, Hubbel) and drew 31.4% turnout.
  5. Balancing interest and attention with a long-term downward trend in GOP primary voter turnout, and assuming little impact of Amendment Y on turnout because very few people know or care that it’s on the ballot, I predict 40% GOP turnout.
  6. Given Friday’s count of 249,985 registered Republicans, I predict we’ll see 100,000 Republican ballots turned in by 7 p.m. (Central and Mountain) tomorrow.
  7. I start with the U.S. House race among Dusty Johnson, Shantel Krebs, and Neal Tapio.
  8. In 2014, the GOP electorate voted in the U.S. Senate primary thus:
    Candidate Vote % Votes
    Mike Rounds 55.54% 41,377
    Larry Rhoden 18.25% 13,593
    Stace Nelson 17.69% 13,179
    Annette Bosworth 5.75% 4,283
    Jason Ravnsborg 2.77% 2,066
    turnout 31.47%
  9. For a variety of reasons, I guess that each 2018 House candidate will receive the following percentages of each 2014 Senate candidates’ voters:
    Johnson Krebs Tapio
    Rounds voters 70% 25% 5%
    Rhoden voters 20% 60% 20%
    Nelson voters 5% 15% 80%
    Bosworth voters 15% 35% 50%
    Ravnsborg voters 15% 15% 70%
    Total 2014 share 33,294 22,286 18,918
    Total 2018 vote 44,688 29,913 25,393
    Total 2018 % 44.7% 29.9% 25.4%
    1. Rounds voters are establishment voters, and Johnson is far more the establishment candidate.
    2. Rhoden voters are West River types. Krebs is tough and good-looking and affirms their ranch lifestyle. Johnson and Tapio look and sound like sissies in their ears.
    3. Nelson voters hate the establishment and mostly love Trump. Tapio raised heck with Nelson on GOAC over GEAR UP.
    4. Bosworth voters are unreliable voters, easily swayed by catchy memes. Tapio thus plays well with them, if they remember to vote. Bosworth voters also include some voters who picked Bosworth just because she was the only woman on that ballot; thus, the non-Tapio drones will lean to Krebs.
    5. Ravnsborg likes whimpering about Sharia Law as much as Tapio does.
  10. I thus predict Johnson wins the GOP nomination for U.S. House with 45%, Krebs second with 30%, and Tapio last with a distressingly high 25%.
  11. More stilts: I now turn to the gubernatorial contest between Marty Jackley and Kristi Noem and guess what percentage of each U.S. House candidate’s voters they will win:
    Jackley Noem
    Johnson 62% 38%
    Krebs 42% 58%
    Tapio 40% 60%
    Total 2018 vote 50,427 49,567
    Total 2018 share 50.4% 49.6%
    1. Johnsonites want competence and a South Dakota team player. Jackley fits that mold better than Noem.
    2. Krebs voters will lean toward the lady in ranchy/farmy duds and toward the message of rooting out what’s wrong in Pierre, which Krebs did in the Secretary of State’s office and which Noem says she can do better than Jackley who’s been part of the problem in Pierre. But that’s a hard message to sell big among the Republican voters who own whatever problems are in Pierre, so that critique doesn’t buy Noem a big spread.
    3. Tapio voters will lean toward the Congresswoman who’s been Trump’s loyal soldier, but again, Jackley has positioned himself as more Trumpy than Noem, so that spread stays narrow.
  12. Thus, Jackley has a slight edge, less than one percentage point in my stilted calculations.
  13. Given the standard unicorns-on-stilts margin of error of something just slightly larger than the broad side of the Sutton Ranch barn, I agree with the May 21-23 KELO/SF paper poll and even with the unsubstantiated internal polling claim Team Jackley is makingDusty Johnson posts a solid win, while Jackley and Noem are still too close to call.

Dusty, cruise through tomorrow. Marty, it’s time to launch the estate tax attack. If you don’t, there’s a higher chance that Billie will have to break that missile out in October.


  1. Paul T 2018-06-04 15:43

    I’d have to agree with you mostly, but I’m going to guess the turnout is lower and Noem (hopefully) edges it out by a few points.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-04 15:49

    Paul, if turnout is lower than I guess, which candidate benefits more?

  3. Roger Cornelius 2018-06-04 16:18

    I agree with Cory’s predictions with the exception being that the Noem/Jackley contest maybe tool close to call.

  4. Robin Friday 2018-06-04 17:31

    We can hope that Tapio sounds like a sissy, but I wonder if he doesn’t sound and look like a Trump Mini-Me to West River voters. And some East Rivers too. Get him a longer tie and he’s a dead ringer.

  5. Robin Friday 2018-06-04 17:39

    What tremendous work goes into your prediction, Cory. Thank you for all the information.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2018-06-04 18:04

    Do you have a prediction for the republican attorney general’s contest?

  7. Kelly 2018-06-04 18:25

    Ravnsborg is an idiot. Bon Homme circuit court file the judge calls him negligent.

  8. grudznick 2018-06-04 18:31

    Mr. C, I don’t think that takes place until June, the 23. The delegates are massing, and rumbling, and in some cases laughing.

  9. grudznick 2018-06-04 19:02

    I should also add that these delegate men and in some cases women, are an order of magnitude insaner than your average GOP primary voter. That’s why they are delegates. They do not represent the mainstream of the Republican Party, much in the way Mr. Nelson and his Insaner Clown Posse represent a small slice of humanity but a larger chunk of the legislatures. When the insaner ones show up, they get to pick. That is the rule.

  10. Roger Cornelius 2018-06-04 19:34

    Thanks grudz, I forgot they present themselves at the republican convention.

  11. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2018-06-04 21:32

    The Jackley/Noem race comes down to the Noem #METOO ad and whether such an ad plays well within the Republican camp in good old South Dakota. If it was played in a Democratic primary, it would be a slam dunk, but I am not so sure about that with our Republican friends. It seems to me that when an ad which says, “I am a Christian and he’s a Christian and he’s just like me, he’s just like you,” is being played to the same political crowd as a #METOO ad, then how dynamic is this crowd and where and how do the dynamic or dynamics unfold?

  12. grudznick 2018-06-04 21:36

    Evans/Shelatz 35%
    Abernathy/grudznick 15%
    anybody else 50%

  13. John 2018-06-04 23:23

    Noem/Jackley will break east / west river; similar to Noem’s race against Herseth, but at a narrower margin due to the elevated Rapid City turnout for the local arena vote. That almost Iowa paper endorsed Noem, while the Journal stuck up for the apparent EB5 malfeasance & sexual harassment supporter. Many Noem signs west river in Jackley country – because he tried too hard to lose this several years ago and up until last month with the tardy payment prompted only by a mandatory court appearance of a head DCIer.

  14. jimmy james 2018-06-05 07:00

    Johnson 53%, Tapio 26%, Krebs 21%

    Noem 54%, Jackley 46%

    Krebs is falling. Too negative with nothing to back it up. She touts Steve King from Iowa but, if the Confederacy matters to them, Republican voters might as well go “all in” with Tapio, the genuine wing-nut.

    The DCI SWAMP….

    Noem’s DCI ad seems to be taking Jackley out. I believe his cheesy and ineffective advertising blew his opportunity before the DCI story hit but he still might have survived without it.

    In his favor, that Rapid City arena vote could garner him an extra thousand votes. Perhaps 1% more statewide than without it. But that is just a wild guess.

  15. Donald Pay 2018-06-05 07:56

    I’ll just say it. Cory, this is a waste of electrons. Handicapping the horse race is the fakest of the fake news. I appreciate you have used some computational and analytic skills to come up with this fake news, but it might have gone to better use on issues that matter.

  16. A Nicer Person 2018-06-05 08:02

    Wow. Wasn’t expecting an ICP reference on election day. Is grudz secretly a “juggalo”? Made my day. *smiling*
    Anytime someone can correlate a group who think magnets are “miracles” to SD politics….we all win.

  17. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 08:06

    Donald’s critique is fair. Election predictions don’t offer us much guidance on public decision-making; they are more of an effort to test our own understanding of political trends.

  18. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 08:12

    Dana P, interesting point about the arena vote in Rapid City! Do you have a sense of which way that vote is going? A heavy NO vote could lean away from establishment Dusty… but would it split between Shantel and Neal and leave Dusty on top?

  19. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 08:18

    Roger, an AG prediction? No way! At least not unless someone hands me a delegate list. I will go no farther than to predict the nomination is not decided on the first ballot… and to suggest that there is a distinct possibility that someone will offer a surprise fourth nomination from the floor, perhaps a Daugaard/Jackley crony to unite the party and to give the GOP an actual chance of beating Randy Seiler.

  20. Dicta 2018-06-05 08:32

    Dusty and Noem. The Noem-Jackley fight is a pick-em, in my mind.

  21. jimmy james 2018-06-05 08:49

    I like predicting results. Anybody can read the results after the fact but it is a test of your political skills to accurately predict the outcome. And…. it’s fun!

  22. Loren 2018-06-05 09:27

    What kind of pressures in the Republican party turn a competent-looking Krebs (after cleaning up the SoS office) into a Trump-babbling sock puppet? Then again, it appears anything that gets sucked into the Trump orbit never comes away better for wear.

  23. mike fom iowa 2018-06-05 09:34

    For the record I went to Primghar, iowa and voted a straight Dem ticket and saved the country in person.

    I was outnumbered by a 3-1 count, voters (me) versus nice lady election officials.

    And it didn’t hurt even a little bit except for my aching back. So “Do It.”

  24. Donald Pay 2018-06-05 10:05

    When I lived in Rapid City, I was a “no” vote on all of the various civic center, etc., expansions or Vision 2012 projects. It’s not that some of them, such as the Journey Museum, weren’t great additions to the city, but they were all done with an expansion of the sales tax or a food and beverage tax, which hits the poor and lower middle class folks most. The one I voted for, even gathered signatures for, was to build an ice arena for hockey and other ice activities. That initiative for that ice project went down, but there was enough interest that the city did put some money into ice later.

    I’m just happy the people get to vote on this project. Just remember, if the Republicans get their way, you won’t be allowed to vote on anything. Consider that when you vote.

  25. Paul T 2018-06-05 15:04

    Cory H: If turnout is lower my guess is it helps Krebs and Noem. Krebs because she is behind and more of her moderate supporters will show up (still not enough) and Noem because I can’t really see anyone excited about supporting Jackley other than law enforcement and establishment types. Republicans are already used to voting for Noem. Can’t wait to laugh how all my predictions are completely backward. I’m 100% biased and know it – just thinking of ways Noem can win because Billie matches up against her so much better.

    Donald Pay: Without predictions we don’t have a measuring stick to see if our theories are correct.

  26. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-05 16:08

    Paul: are GOP voters used to voting for Noem, or are they just used to voting against what ever Democrat is trying to go to Congress? Are Republicans any more excited about Noem than about Jackley?

    Of course, we Democrats should all be rooting for Noem now, because Mitch McConnell just cancelled summer recess, meaning Noem as nominee would be stuck in Washington and leave all the county fairs for Billie Sutton and Kurt Evans to campaign uncontested.

    As Loren notes, Krebs had competent management of the Secretary of State’s office to campaign on… until this morning when the electronic pollbooks crashed, and the SOS office responded by setting a whole bunch of staggered extending voting times and tried to pass all the blame to the counties.

  27. Curt 2018-06-05 18:35

    McConnell has no control over Noem’s recess schedule as she “serves” in the House and he controls the Senate.

  28. jimmy james 2018-06-06 06:53

    I looked back to last year to see how the Jackley/Noem race looked at the beginning of the campaign. Jackley easily bested her in the State Fair (58/41) and Chamber polls (60/23). He was trying to get her to sign a clean campaign pledge…. a good sign he thought he was well ahead. They may not be scientific polls but I think they were good indicators of the state of the race.

    Well, that was then. Last night, Noem destroyed Jackley by fourteen points. Wow.

  29. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-06-06 10:25

    Jimmy, I agree: signs pointed toward Jackley on top early. He had an opportunity to stay ahead of Noem’s big money. He evidently made her swing hard, but he wasn’t ready to swing back.

    My problem—and Marty’s problem—is that I recognize that Marty Jackley lacks charisma. I think I underestimate how much charisma Kristi Noem projects to people who have yet to see through her bull. Two million dollars can project a lot of charisma.

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