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Fantasy Poll Shows SDGOP Primary Voters Prefer High School Popularity Contests to Real Thinking About Skills and Policy

From either Fantasy Land or Dystopia, Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio claims he polled 400 likely South Dakota Republican primary voters and found that John Thune would lose a primary to Kristi Noem but crush Dusty Johnson:

Tom LoBianco, tweet, 2022.01.13.
Tom LoBianco, tweet, 2022.01.13.

Within 48 hours of Thune, R-S.D., announcing his re-election campaign Saturday, the American Potential Fund began polling the state’s likely GOP voters. The survey determined Thune could lose a primary by 9 percentage points to Gov. Kristi Noem and could face a spirited challenge from Dusty Johnson, South Dakota’s lesser-known U.S. representative, according to a polling memo, obtained by NBC News, that the political committee circulated to donors and political insiders Thursday [Marc Caputo, “Trump Allies Have Knives Out for Sen. Thune as He Embarks on Re-Election Bid,” NBC News, 2022.01.13].

Really, Trumpists? More than a year after Trump flung his clueless primary threat against Thune, more than a year after Noem almost immediately said no way, you keep beating this horse? Is New York pollster Fabrizio, whose polls are as reliable as a coin flip, even aware of who’s actually running for Senate in South Dakota? Thune faces three no-name challengers precisely because Noem and Johnson are happy with the jobs they have and know better than to upset the party establishment with a bloody campaign against a Senate veteran with more cash on hand ($14.8M) than both of them put together (Johnson $1.7M; Noem allegedly $6.5 million, but that state cash can’t transfer directly to a Senate campaign).

But ugh—if we take these poll numbers at face value, they make a disheartening point about the South Dakota Republican primary electorate. When a sitting Senator would lose by nine points to one challenger but win by seventeen over another, the polled voters aren’t expressing any deep convictions about policy or performance. And the difference is not prominence: NBC’s characterization of Dusty Johnson as “lesser-known” applies only outside South Dakota. Every South Dakota voter who knows John Thune also knows Dusty Johnson. Scrappy Dusty has forged a dynamic presence in South Dakota’s psyche that ensures he’ll get as many Heys and handshakes as Tall John when he walks into any given ice cream shop. And Dusty is the biggest policy wonk of the bunch. If it weren’t for partisan politics, Dusty would sit and write laws and solve real problems every day at a faster clip than Noem and Thune combined.

But the South Dakota Republican voters Fabrizio called aren’t looking for policymakers or problem solvers. They’re looking for someone to scratch their ids. They’re looking for someone who looks hot on a poster. This poll reads less like the responses of thoughtful citizens seeking to produce good policy and more like the results of a high school popularity contest: the pretty cheerleader gets the most votes; the basketball champ comes next; the scrawny (and I say this with love, Dusty) nerd finishes last.

Fabrizio’s poll is an exercise in fantasy, useless to the people actually running for Senate. It shows no weakness that any real challengers in the primary or the general can use to beat Thune. It only shows the weakness of thinking among some select South Dakota Republican voters.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-01-14 10:09

    Watching the Republican Party gutting itself makes me happy.

  2. Mark Anderson 2022-01-14 14:33

    What’s the problem? Trump can totally ruin the Republican party. That’s a good thing.

  3. John 2022-01-14 17:21

    The repubs will not merely gut their faux party, they’ll gut our nation. They will not rest until they reverse their failed coups of 1933 and 2021.

    When I returned to the state after 20+ years of service, 10+ of that overseas, I was astonished at how stupid the South Dakota voters became, parents included.
    The voters lived on a constant diet of Faux News, Limbaugh, other right wingnut talk radio — all spewing hate, mistrust, mistruth, and often lies.
    Propaganda works.

    Mark Twain’s astonishment of how much his father learned is the exact opposite of how the South Dakota voters became dumber.
    “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

  4. John 2022-01-14 17:38

    Friends, here’s an example of what results from real political thinking about skills and policy. (I understand if you missed the first article as did I.)
    EVs: consider this from the German transport minister. German. Home of the great car companies. Buy a Tesla.
    Auf English, mansplained:

  5. Guy 2022-01-14 17:39

    Cory said: “They’re looking for someone who looks hot on a poster”: aka “America’s Governor”.

    We get the government we deserve because unfortunately a slim majority in this state want to believe the fairy tales.

  6. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-01-14 18:26

    Exactly, Cory and Guy.

  7. Jake 2022-01-16 07:39

    Guy, so right on; the GOP has been ‘fairytales’ for quite some time. Trouble is, the GOP voter is the
    “sucker born every minute” (P T Barum) andalwaus votes for the one waving the flag, brandishing the bible, and talking with forked tongue….

  8. Richard Schriever 2022-01-17 09:50

    Jake – a Federal minister who actually thinks about how policy works!! Of course Buttigieg is also deep thinker as our own equivalent level Secretary, but at the state level? Hah! SD DOT is about 20 years behind even the states bordering us and a couple of them aren’t too advanced.

  9. Richard Schriever 2022-01-17 09:51

    OOps, responded to the wrong poster. I meant John………

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