I’m of the impression that we can usually count on South Dakota Republicans to kum-ba-yah after a hard primary and unite behind their nominees to pound the poor Democrats who were hoping for a primary schism.
Yah, but with Republicans openly quaking about their nominee Kristi Noem’s unexpectedly uphill battle against history-teasing Democratic nominee Billie Sutton, Attorney General Marty Jackley, the man Noem nastily beat in the GOP primary four and a half months ago, still won’t say two simple words: “Vote Kristi”:
When asked whether he will vote for Noem, Jackley said, “I haven’t voted yet, and at this point I really haven’t made any final decisions.”
…“I’ve certainly been talking to our team and listening to our supporters on what to do, and I intend to keep doing that and may make a decision between now and the election,” Jackley said, “and I may simply just continue to take the position that it’s really the voters of South Dakota that will be and should be picking their next governor” [Seth Tupper, “Jackley Says He’s Undecided on Noem or Sutton for Governor,” Rapid City Journal, updated 2018.10.20].
(Kurt Evans! I see an opening here for you and the Libertarians! Call Marty now, give him an out!)
The Sioux Falls paper endorses Sutton. The Rapid City paper endorses Sutton. The AP catches Noem mostly lying about Sutton’s record on taxes. Sutton reminds voters of nice things Republicans have said about him, including Marty Jackley himself, who welcomed Sutton into the Governor’s race last year and called him a long-time friend. Seth Tupper calls Jackley and gives him a chance to let some air out of Sutton’s momentum and do a nice party-unity favor for Kristi Noem… and Jackley punts. Eighteen days before the election, on Kristi’s fourth down, Jackley punts.
What was that Sutton’s internal poll said back in July?
- Sutton wins a real share of registered Republicans (21%) and leads among unaffiliated voters by 19 points (54% Sutton / 35% Noem).
- Those who voted for Marty Jackley in the GOP primary are also driving Sutton’s ability to run well with Republicans. Fewer than half of Jackley primary voters are in the Noem column (31% Sutton / 49% Noem / 20% undecided) [ALG Research, 2018.07.30].
I can hypothesize five explanations for Jackley’s hesitance:
- Jackley’s angling for a judgeship, and he’s letting Noem know that if she won’t promise him a choice circuit appointment, he’ll make sure she doesn’t become Governor, and he’ll talk to his long-time friend Sutton about an appointment.
- Jackley’s still just p.o’ed at Noem, and his sense of the electorate is that she’s so weak in the polls that he loses more than he gains by rallying for a loser.
- Jackley’s non-endorsement signals his supporters that it’s o.k. to vote for Sutton, and he thinks that the race is close enough that his supporters can swing the election for Sutton, thus opening the door for Jackley to run for Governor against Sutton in 2022.
- Jackley honestly hasn’t decided who would be the best Governor, Noem, Sutton, or Evans (!)… which would speak volumes to the inability of Noem to make her case to even committed Republicans after campaigning for the job for nearly two years.
- Jackley knows Sutton would be the better Governor, but he’s still torn between that truth and loyalty to the party that afforded him so many favors.
I challenge my readers to come up with any hypothesis that leads to a conclusion that Kristi Noem’s campaign is not in serious trouble.