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The Incredibly Frustrating Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

DSCC's South Dakota Problem

With Sen. Tim Johnson retiring, Republicans have a good shot to pick up a senate seat in South Dakota.  Yet, some within Democratic circles are trying to dragoon Johnson’s son, Brendan, to be the Democratic nominee in 2014.  The problem is that no one really know him, and most are pulling for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to mount a political comeback.  Sandlin, who served in Congress from 2004-2011, was seen as something of a rising star in the Democratic Party, until Republican Kristi Noem booted her during the 2010 Tea Party insurgency.  She has the name recognition, except there’s a few issues.  She’s pro-gun, and holding such views are anathema to the Democratic base.  She’s also against gay marriage.  The Democratic Party has bend over on that issue for fundraising purposes.

According to ArgusPoliBlog:

The DSCC has poll numbers showing that Herseth Sandlin is the stronger general election match up against [former Governor] Mike Rounds. There is no question in my mind that Herseth Sandlin is still popular with a large swath of the electorate, and she would be a good candidate.

Johnson would be a strong candidate, too. But he would have to make up ground where Herseth Sandlin is already a known quantity among the state’s voters. Still, being an outsider to the state’s political system might be a benefit in the race. No one can accuse him of being a lobbyist.

So, it’s a question of winning, and sticking to the principles of American progressivism.  Although, it’s a safe bet that the political muscle will end up behind Sandlin. Brad Dayspring of the NRSC noted today that she:

…proudly declared, “I would vote for George Bush for president,” should the presidential election be decided in the House of Representatives [in 2004].

To be clear: An anti-Obamacare, pro-gun, anti-gay marriage lobbyist is being recruited by the DSCC over a mainstream Democrat whom South Dakotans are actively encouraging to run. Just bizarre.  The Argus Leader points out that, “being an outsider to the state’s political system might be a benefit in the race. No one can accuse him of being a lobbyist. So if you want to know why the Democrats didn’t have an announced candidate at the McGovern Day Dinner Saturday, blame the DSCC.”

As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil famously said, “all politics is local,” and the Midwestern United States tilts more to the right.  Then again, for the most firebrand of liberals, her conservatism on some issues may not be acceptable.  Yet, as the South Dakota War College blog noted today, Democrats in the Mount Rushmore State should ignore Washington.

So, here’s a great question for the Democrats in the audience – what do you think about Stephanie Herseth Sandlin – an anti-Obamacare, pro-gun, anti-gay marriage lobbyist that is being recruited by the DSCC over a Brendan Johnson, a mainstream Democrat whom South Dakotans are actively encouraging to run?

Keep in mind the brain trust who is making these decisions.  The DSCC has no top tier candidates for where they claim they have their best pickup opportunities: Kentucky being the top, supposedly. Yet they continue to pat themselves on the back for a decent fundraising quarter.

But looking at the financials, across the country they aren’t performing where it counts, and there’s little reason for Democrats in South Dakota to defer to them, and expect that they’re going to swoop in and give them a win.

  1. At this point in 2010 cycle, the DSCC had 3x more cash on hand as the NRSC and went on to lose 5 seats on election day.
  2. The DSCC – the Majority Committee – has $8.2 million on hand and $15 million in debt.  The NRSC – the minority committee – has $5.2 million on hand and $9.5 million in debt.  In other words, while they’re both in debt, the DSCC is about 2 million farther down.
  3. Going back to candidate recruitment – In a post Citizens United world, recruiting and training the best candidates, establishing strong campaign operations, and building a strong digital infrastructure is critical for party committees.  And do the Dems have any?
  4. If the DSCC really believes money is more important than ever, they are in big trouble in Kentucky – which they claim is their best opportunity.  Can’t have it both ways.

Then again, these are Democrats, and the chances that they’ll trip over their own shoes is high.  However, exploiting that blunder depends on Republicans being smarter, which will be seen – hopefully – during this upcoming election cycle.

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