...and Rounds Made Me a Democrat!

When Jeff Barth and then Matt Varilek entered the 2012 U.S. House race, I gave each man's announcement one blog post. When M. Michael Rounds entered the 2014 U.S. Senate race yesterday, GOP mouthpiece Pat Powers crapped his blog pants with 12 posts, 10 with "Rounds" in the headline, and a speeding ticket.

Sure, a former Governor making clear the political intentions he's been signaling since spring is news... kinda sorta. I would suggest, however, that the only people to whom this news really matters already knew what was coming. The GOP donors knew to whom they'd be writing their checks. The potential serious GOP contenders had already been told by Friends of M. Michael, "Senate is Mikey's ball. You go play somewhere else." And the Dems have known they're going to need to bring the heat.

And that heat may well be Senator Tim Johnson himself, looking to beat Karl's Curse and win a fourth term:

I consider Mike a friend, and I welcome him to the race. I had an excellent working relationship with him during his eight years as Governor, and the fact that he has already re-stated his refusal to take the Grover Norquist “no tax increases under any circumstances” pledge is a very good sign.

Our country faces a real fiscal dilemma, and tax increases on the wealthy absolutely have to be a part of the solution. While I’m sure that Mike and I will have some policy disagreements – which is to be expected – I am more than willing to give credit where it is due. And the fact that Mike realizes that it is irresponsible to take tax increases off the negotiating table is absolutely to his credit.

As in past campaigns, I will make my formal announcement later next year. But I feel great, still have work to do, and I fully intend to put together a winning campaign in the weeks and months ahead. In the meantime, I intend to continue to focus on my important work representing South Dakota [Senator Tim Johnson, quoted by Tom Lawrence, "And Now Tim Johnson Is In, Too," Republic Insider, 2012.11.29].

Did you catch that note about taxes? Expect to hear that a lot. Senator Johnson is looking over M. Michael's right shoulder and teasing the Nelson-Howie-anti-RINO wing of the Republican Party. Rounds has pledged not to pledge to Grover Norquist, whom Senator John Thune and Congresswoman Kristi Noem are about to throw overboard. Johnson will have fun plying that line between now and the 2014 election. Before the primary, that line will be useful in goading hardcore rightwinger into challenging Rounds for the nomination. After the primary, which Rounds will win against whatever Sibbyite dares challenge him, Johnson will have fun reminding the right wing of what an unsatisfying Romneyite they have at the top of their ticket, with the intent of depressing right-wing rage and buying a precious few percentage-point cushion for November. (Best option for the Mugwumps: skip the primary, go straight to a third party challenge with a Stace NelsonDan Kaiser ticket.)

I'll be happy to help Johnson with that narrative by reminding voters that Mike Rounds made me a Democrat with his big-government hypocrisy. I was a registered Republican back in 2003. I was still wallowing in the grand anti-government abstractions of lazy libertarianism (that's a redundant phrase). I called in to an SDPB Dakota Midday broadcast and asked Governor Rounds to explain how he as a Republican could justify supporting the No Child Left Behind Act, which I viewed as (1) useless and (2) an intrusion of federal power in local affairs. Governor Rounds said (to the best of my recollection), "I don't see how anyone could want to leave children behind." He didn't address the proper role of the federal government. He didn't address the effectiveness of the law. All he did was crystallize the disconnect between my perception of the Republican Party and the reality of the Rounds-Daugaard political machine that had no firm anti-government principles bought only sought power for its own purposes.

Mike Rounds's non-response to my question sent me down a road of worldview reconsideration that made me realize there was no grand battle of philosopher-kings. Once Rounds got me over the hump of my abstractions, I realized there are much more important practical matters to resolve... and that Democrats offer better practical solutions that secure more liberty for more people than the crony-corporate machine that Romney-Rounds Republicans represent.

Yeah, I think this Senate race will be fun. Bring it on, M. Mike! We're ready for you!