Now Neal Tapio is doing the striptease, blasting his Trumpy dog-whistles about national and local brown-people emergencies and telling the rabid that “more information will be provided soon” about his intent to lose to Dusty Johnson again. Come on, Neal—poop or get off the pot.
I could be persuaded that Tapio’s entry into the GOP primary for U.S. House could help Scyller Borglum in her own longshot GOP primary bid against Dusty’s pal, incumbent U.S. Senator M. Michael Rounds. Having someone else bang the pro-Trump, anti-establishment drum against South Dakota’s good-old-boy network could amplify Borglum’s message and boost her primary vote total. But that persuasion would depend on two key assumptions:
- GOP primary voters can contort themselves into the notion that the man sitting in the White House with the nuclear football is not The Establishment, and
- Borglum would think it’s worth getting in bed with a sexist, racist, reality-detached wingnut like Tapio just to raise her primary vote from 20% to 30%.
Tapio is not the candidate to help Borglum upset Rounds in the primary. To the contrary, he epitomizes the inability of the Trumpist anti-establishment wing to upset the South Dakota Republican Party primary apple cart. Tapio 2018, like Stace Nelson 2014 and Gordon Howie 2010, shows us that real radical outsiders have no path to victory in the South Dakota Republican primary. Tapio will only hyperpartisanize and Trump-sationalize a primary that Borglum wants and needs to be about real problems and policies. Tapio will suck all the press oxygen his way with his radical bomb-throwing, and Borglum will be shunted to the corner of voters’ minds as, “Oh, is she that quiet girl in the red dress?”
There are at least ten reasons Scyller Borglum can’t beat Mike Rounds in the 2020 primary:
- Incumbent Rounds will have no trouble mobilizing the good-old-boys’ network to crush her.
- Rounds owns at least 55.5% of the GOP primary electorate. That’s how many primary voters picked Rounds in 2014; since then, Rounds has done nothing—stop the sentence there and laugh for a moment, but then remember, doing nothing in Washington is exactly what the GOP primary electorate wants—to lose those voters.
- No Republican voter, donor, volunteer, or staffer has any good reason to publicly back Borglum against Rounds. Borglum has nothing to offer but truth and shellacking. Rounds and the establishment hold all the purse strings, patronage jobs, party appointments….
- Even Republicans voters not playing inside baseball will look at the two candidates and say their widely known, reasonably popular, and much better funded Senator is the better candidate to beat whomever the Democrats run in November.
- The national party has already thrown in with incumbent Rounds. They won’t let him lose.
- Trump won’t intervene: no matter how much Broglum cloaks herself in Trumpism, Senator Rounds hasn’t given Trump any hard Sasse that could prompt the thin-skinned billionaire to come campaign for a primary upset.
- Borglum’s best possible argument, that Rounds is part of the swamp that Trump promised to drain, has no takers in the GOP primary electorate, who are determined to believe that all of their candidates affirm their own moral purity.
- Beating Rounds will take money, and that money won’t roll into Borglum’s pockets by June.
- The gutsiest possible source of money Borglum could get to shake up the race, her Black Hills neighbor Stanford Adelstein, will never abandon Rounds, whose own upset primary victory Adelstein made possible in 2002.
- Every line Borglum can use to distinguish herself from Rounds—science degrees, work at School Mines, outsider status, newcomer to South Dakota—play as negatives among the GOP primary electorate.
If Borglum is pitching to the “exhausted middle,” she won’t find them at the polls in June. GOP primary voters are the exuberant extremes, the Republican die-hards who run in South Dakota on an inexhaustible supply of party loyalty and opportunist baloney. The last thing those party faithful want to hear is that the man they elected Governor and then Senator and who gave their kid a nice patronage career is a corrupt wishy-wash.
Borglum’s message of science, common-sense moderation, and apple-cart-upsettery is wasted on Lincoln Day Dinners. Her audience is the general electorate… which is why she should skip the primary and run in the general election as an independent.
Borglum can win maybe a quarter of the GOP electorate. She’ll draw bigger among the Stace Nelson wing, which hates Rounds, and maybe among the RINOs, the folks who register Republican purely for appearances sake or for the opportunity to vote for sheriff in the primary. But those segments, along with a sliver of the GOP establishment majority slightly larger than the margin of error, get her 10% of the general electorate.
Borglum’s message is really for the burgeoning ranks of independents. If she forswears her party label now and spends the next fourteen months talking to all of the voters about how tired she is of partisan bickering and labels preventing us from having real choices, discussing real issues, and solving real problems, the 132,000 independent voters in South Dakota (at current growth rates, possibly 144,000 by November 2020) will happily lean her way, adding 14% to her November total.
Borglum’s biggest chunk of the electorate could come from Democrats. She already has Democratic allies who will eagerly rally to her side. If she could convince the Democratic Party not to run a placeholder for U.S. Senate and instead focus its resources on winnable Legislative races, and if she could tone down her Trumpist rhetoric and focus instead on the damage Mike Rounds does to our South Dakota body politic with his absolute swampiness, she could win the vast majority of Democratic votes, perhaps more from the Sanders/Harris-change-minded young than the party-label-purist old. Keep a Democrat off the ballot, and Democrats give Borglum another 22%.
I spot her another 1% from the Libertarians. She could walk into the next Pizza Ranch convention and promise them the simple honest, principled alternative to fake Republican conservatives that Libertarians crave. She could offer to goose their U.S. House and Legislative candidates with a little logistical support. She could offer to mention their brand and their candidates in her press and stump speeches as examples of how we need to hear from more voices than Rounds and his propaganda-meisters in Washington and in South Dakota. Excite the Libertarians, and they muster their full registry in favor of Borglum.
That puts independent Borglum at 47% in November. That’s still not winning. But it’s twice the percentage she’ll get trying to upset Rounds in June, and it gives her opportunities to speak to anti=establishment voters in three categories—independents, Democrats, and Libertarians—who will give her zero help in June and maybe just the help she needs to pull off a squeaker in November.
Scyller Borglum, if you’re serious about winning, if you’re serious about uprooting the good-old-boys’ network and giving disenchanted voters a real voice, go talk to those disenchanted voters. Get away from the primary electorate. Get away from the Tapio freak show. Talk to every voter—run as an independent.