On Friday, Nielson Brothers Polling released the first big survey of how the general election may swing in South Dakota. Their results confirm the expected: Republicans are leading every big race. They also confirm what you'd expect if your political analysis goes beyond haircuts and horses: Rep. Kristi Noem faces the toughest race of any Republican on the statewide ballot.
Here are the Nielson numbers for the picks made by randomly selected registered voters called from July 19 to July 23, in order of GOP advantage:
- PUC 4-year term: Chris Nelson beats Nick Nemec 54%â€“30%.
- President: Mitt Romney beats Barack Obama 49%â€“43%.
- PUC 6-year term: Kristie Fiegen beats Matt McGovern 43%â€“41%.
- U.S. House: Kristi Noem beats Matt Varilek 47%â€“46%
Tom Erickson, Noemâ€™s campaign manager, said he doesnâ€™t put a lot of stock in the NBP numbers.
â€œI would have to dismiss anyone who claims someone who supports President Obamaâ€™s health care law is getting 46 percent,â€ Erickson said [Tom Lawrence, "Poll: Noem Leads by a Point," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2012.08.04].
Pollsters Paul and Mark Nielson both contribute labor to a family farm, so if you reject their polling results, you're obviously anti-farmer. Paul Nielson also happens to be an ordained pastor, so if you don't trust his polling, you must worship Satan.
Such comments make about as much sense as Noem's health care response. South Dakotans who oppose the Affordable Care Act can still recognize that Kristi Noem hasn't gotten anything done as Congresswoman. They can recognize that her 33 grandstanding votes to repeal ObamaCare have wasted time and moneyÂ that could have been spent solving real problems. They can recognize that, much as they may not like the Affordable Care Act, they find Noem's plan to destroy Medicare even worse.
Team Noem's second response has just slightly more logic: they cite (and GOP-machine blog DWC belabors) the fact that Nielson Brothers Polling blew the 2010 gubernatorial race by 20 points. True dat... but also true, as Tom Lawrence notes, NBP much more accurately polled the 2010 House race:
However, that same poll showed Noem with a 44.3-41.8 lead with independent candidate B. Thomas Marking at 6.5 percent and 7 percent undecided. On Election Day, Noem won 48.1-45.9 percent, and Marking garnered almost 6 percent [Lawrence, 2012.08.04].
A dead heat between Noem and Varilek does not defy logic. Noem didn't win a majority in 2010, and she's done little to expand her base. She has no legislative achievements to show to Independents. She's botching the Farm Bill, just like the incumbent whom George McGovern beat in 1956. Despite her constant preening for Fox News, she's dissed her base, voting for self-serving big-government handouts and declining to hang out with the Tea Party caucus. Ask, "What has Kristi Noem done for you lately?" and a majority of South Dakotans will respond with head scratching silence... and quite possibly a willingness to hire someone else to speak for South Dakota in Congress.
Team Noem's nervous response to these distressing poll numbers is all the wrong kind of denial. Team Varilek's response is more sensible: cheer the numbers, but keep hammering on issues... and always, always,Â alwaysÂ run as if you are behind.
Update 10:25 CDT:Â Bob Mercer finds the NBP numbers plausible as well.