I like dramatic elections. Alas, The Displaced Plainsman anticipates no drama in Tuesday's GOP Senate primary. Neither does Bob Mercer, who has upped his estimate of frontrunner Marion Michael Rounds's vote count from 50% to 60%, based on May campaigning:

Rounds’ campaign stepped up its efforts tremendously with its blitz of signs, its well-done newspaper stuffers and the candidate’s busy schedule of appearances at grassroots events.

Meanwhile the other four didn’t seem to pick up steam. They resorted to holding and/or attending news conference-style events trying to draw wider attention [Bob Mercer, "Will Mike Rounds Break 60 Percent?" Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.05.31].

I hate to play into a sense of inevitability, but the Rounds money machine appears to be coasting to victory. Rounds has avoided debates and eased up on the fundraising gas while managing not to get mired in any of the very valid critiques his opponents could be making about his record of corruption, laziness, and failure as governor.

But hey, in case any of you Republicans are still thinking about changing your vote, let me re-don my Republican hat and offer the best reasons I can think of for Republicans to vote for each of the four legitimate U.S. Senate candidates on their ballot Tuesday:

Mike Rounds:

  1. No one will bring more money, polish, and name recognition to the campaign.
  2. Rounds has no policy vision, but Republicans don't want policy vision. Republicans hire a candidate to occupy the seat and keep Democrats out. Rounds will go to Washington, cast his desultory votes, and get right back to fundraising for the next election.
  3. While the end of earmarks has made it harder for Senators to send home pork, Rounds has demonstrated the least philosophical compunction against big federal government spending to benefit South Dakota. His lack of commitment to the Republican slogans he campaigns on, buttered with his insurance-salesman charm, give South Dakota the best shot at drawing funds for the Lewis and Clark water pipeline and other porky projects.

Stace Nelson:

  1. Nelson means what he says and says what he means more than anyone else on the GOP ballot.
  2. If you're a Tea Party Republican, Nelson is absolutely your only choice. No other GOP candidate has espoused the principles of hard right conservative Republicanism, appeared at more South Dakota Tea Party events, and more openly embraced the language of the Tea Party movement.
  3. If anyone has a chance of bucking crony capitalism in Washington, it's Nelson.
  4. Speaking of crony capitalism, if the EB-5 investigations break open before November 4, Republicans will need cover. Nelson has spoken most forthrightly against EB-5. Nelson sponsored legislation to get South Dakota out of EB-5.
  5. Joining Nelson with John Thune would give South Dakota the tallest Senate duo in the country.
  6. Nelson's size and style would get South Dakota more national press than even Kristi Noem.

Larry Rhoden:

  1. Of the challengers, Rhoden is the most experienced legislator, with a greater record of crafting, negotiating, and passing bills.
  2. Joining Rhoden with Thune would give South Dakota the handsomest Senate duo in the country.
  3. On pure image, Rhoden best affirms South Dakota's agricultural mythos, in which we all deep down crave to be from West River.

Jason Ravnsborg:

  1. On the campaign trail, Ravnsborg has done a good job of peppering his responses with specific policies, showing a focus on reversing the impression that the GOP is the "Party of No" and thus offering more appeal to voters interested in solving problems rather than playing partisan politics.
  2. Ravnsborg will draw the least attention, the least excitement, and the least financial support of the four candidates you have to choose from. If you're playing SDGOP chess and don't like Mike Rounds, this isn't a bad thing. You use Ravnsborg to send Rounds home. You elevate him to Senator, let him muddle about for six years doing no harm, and keep him out of the way of the 2018 round of musical chairs, when you'll have a whole bench of characters wrestling for governor, attorney general, and other posts that you wouldn't want Ravnsborg messing with. And then in 2020, you can promote a GOP all-star to that Senate seat by primarying Ravnsborg out. (Yes, I had to stretch for that one, because even with my Republican hat on, I have a hard time thinking of why any Republican gets excited about Ravnsborg.)

Ugh. I feel dirty.

I know my probing of the Republican mindset won't have much impact on Tuesday's primary. But Republicans, don't say I didn't try to help.

Bonus Prediction: Trying very hard to weed out wishful thinking, I check my gut, glance at the 2010 GOP primary results, and divine the following outcome:

  1. Rounds: 55% (better than Daugaard 2010, but not much better)
  2. Nelson: 25% (wins all of Howie's voters, plus boost from only effective challenger's ground game)
  3. Rhoden: 10% (barely carries Meade County)
  4. Ravnsborg: 6% (more margin of error and "don't like the other guys" than active support)
  5. other/spoilage: 4%