In a day sure to be filled with statistics (Nielsen ratings, beer sales, third-meow conversions...), my attention turns to electoral data that may connect U.S. Senate candidates Larry Rhoden and Rick Weiland.

Back in 1996, the dark days when Larry Rhoden was a Jimmy Carter Democrat in Bill Clinton's America, South Dakota Democrats had a primary. Four Democrats—yes, four!—wanted to take over for the aspiring Tim Johnson in the U.S. House of Representatives. Taking his first swing at elected office, Rick Weiland faced Jim Abbott, Linda Stensland, and Dennis Jones. Weiland won the state and Larry Rhoden's Meade County:

1996 SD Democratic Primary
U.S. House Results
Rick Weiland 42.0% 44.1%
Jim Abbott 27.9% 25.4%
Dennis Jones 17.4% 13.6%
Linda Stensland 12.7% 16.9%

A friend of the blog finds records showing that Larry Rhoden did indeed vote in the 1996 primary. Since he was registered as a Democrat at that time, he had to have voted in the Democratic primary. There was no other Democratic primary race (not for President, Senate, or Legislature) on Meade County's 1996 ballot, so we may assume that Rhoden voted for one of those four candidates. Without other information, we may posit that there is a 44% chance that Larry Rhoden voted for the man he wants to challenge in November for our open U.S. Senate.

Only 792 of Meade County's 4,146 registered Democrats at the time bothered to vote in that primary. Larry Rhoden was thus part of a small minority, just 19%, of Meade County Democrats who were fired up enough about the 1996 primary to show up and vote. Rhoden's party fervor lasted just two more years; after the mixed results of the 1998 general election (Daschle, Butler, Curt Johnson, and Burg won statewide for Dems; Thune, Janklow, and Hazeltine won for the GOP), Rhoden decided to seek his political fortune with the Republicans.

But who knows? When the GOP rejects Rhoden during this primary in favor of Mike Rounds or Stace Nelson, Rhoden will come home and avail himself of another opportunity to vote for Rick Weiland.