Public Policy Polling offers some support to the Displaced Plainsman's thesis that the SDGOP propaganda machine is hyping a possible 2014 Democratic primary battle for Senator Tim Johnson's seat to keep our attention away from the real party-wrecker that could be coming: a GOP primary between declared GOP Senate candidate M. Michael Rounds and the ever-ambitious Congresswoman Kristi Noem.

Public Policy Polling talks to South Dakotans and finds Noem and Rounds neck-and-neck:

South Dakota might be next on the list of states where Republicans have a bruising Senate primary. Our first look at the state for 2014 finds Mike Rounds and Kristi Noem closely locked in a hypothetical contest, with Rounds leading just 43/39. Noem's favorability rating with GOP voters at 71/18 is slightly better than Rounds' 67/17 [Tom Jensen, "South Dakota Senate Poll," Public Policy Polling, 2013.03.21].

That's Jensen's lead paragraph, suggesting that's the most significant information to draw from this poll. Jensen notes the Dem numbers, finding Stephanie Herseth Sandlin would trounce Brendan Johnson in a primary and be competitive with either Noem or Rounds. Jensen concludes thus:

South Dakota provides a good opportunity for Republicans in 2014 but these numbers suggest that it won't be the end of the world for Democrats if Johnson ends up deciding to retire, given Herseth Sandlin's popularity, and the potential for a highly divisive GOP primary that could give Democrats an opportunity to replicate some of their other red state wins over the last few election cycles [Jensen, 2013.03.21].

David Montgomery goes crazy with the crosstabs, but here's the short form: SHS could beat Noem or Rounds, and that's before those GOP contenders land any punches on each other. Given their tight poll numbers, Noem and Rounds would have to fight hard to win. Noem went negative right out of the gate last year against the much less well-funded Varilek campaign; she'd fire even bigger guns against the Rounds money machine. Rounds would not be able to coast in nice-guy mode as he did in 2002; he'd have to fight back. Whoever would win that GOP primary would come out beat up, with some alienated GOP voters who would be comfortable voting for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin again.

And what is the Republican spin machine's headline? "Poll Says US Senate Seat Belongs to the GOP, and Brendan Can't Win," bleats Dakota War College:

Lots of things within the margin of error here, but any way you slice it, it looks good for the GOP, and extremely bleak for the Dems [Pat Powers, "Poll Says US Senate Seat Belongs to the GOP, and Brendan Can't Win," Dakota War College, 2013.03.21].

Wow—not just ignoring, but completely contradicting the pollster's own conclusion! It must be hard to construct one's own special reality every day. It must be even harder to trot that fantasy out to the public, hoping people will buy that fantasy and ignore the trouble your own party faces. I'm a little busy, so if you all don't mind, I'll just stick with the facts and data as presented.

By the way, Public Policy Polling doesn't throw Matt Varilek into the mix. I've made my argument to include Varilek and his Washington experience in our Senate calculus, but if the Public Policy Polling hypotheticals come true and Noem leaves her House seat to run for Senate, I rewrite my fantasy football card: SHS for Senate, Varilek for House, Bernie Hunhoff for Governor, and Brendan Johnson for Attorney General.