Keep your new day job, Shantel. If South Dakota's election results have any bearing on the hotly anticipated 2018 gubernatorial contest, Marty's got you beat by over 30%.

Now that Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz is finally done wiping the coffee off absentee ballots, we can dig into the complete statewide results of the midterm election.

Of the nine (ten, if you count Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels tied at the hip to Governor Dennis Daugaard), only one got more than 200,000 votes: Attorney General Marty Jackley. By the numbers, Jackley is the most popular Republican in South Dakota.

Readers here wondered perhaps the Attorney General vote count would be depressed by voters who, disgusted with Jackley's various errors in office (e.g., hiding information about his investigation into Richard Benda's death, not prosecuting obvious violations of law in the EB-5 scandal, persecuting child advocates Shirley Schwab and Brandon Taliaferro) but appalled at the prospect of dirtying their vote with fake Libertarian con artist Chad Haber, would leave that ballot line blank. A comparison of all statewide vote totals with the top vote-getting race, the U.S. Senate race, indicates the AG's race saw an 8.84% voter drop-off, comparable to the drop-off in similar races:

Race Republican Democrat Other Other Total Drop-off
SEN 140,722 82,408 8,469 (I) 47,728 (I) 279,327
HOUSE 183,797 92,438 276,235 1.11%
GOV 195,374 70,508 11,367 (I) 277,249 0.74%
SOS 155,627 84,132 8,320(L) 10,253 (C) 258,332 7.52%
AG 208,810 45,826 (L) 254,636 8.84%
AUD 191,720 48,076 (L) 239,796 14.15%
TREAS 155,737 85,153 13,609 (L) 254,499 8.89%
CSPL 174,782 53,807 (L) 228,589 18.16%
PUC 167,700 74,780 12,634 (C) 255,114 8.67%

I list the races in the order they appeared on the November 4, 2014, ballot. The numbers don't show a clear trend of ballot fatigue, voters getting tired of marking bubbles as they move down the paper. Quite the contrary—farther down the ballot, when voters got to Amendment Q and Initiated Measures 17 and 18, voter interest jumped:

Issue Y N Total Dropoff
Amendment Q 152218 116297 268515 3.87%
Initiated Measure 17 166351 102767 269118 3.65%
Initiated Measure 18 150757 123150 273907 1.94%

IM 18, the minimum-wage increase and the last item on the statewide ballot, drew just 1.9% less attention than the Senate race and at least 15,000 more voters' worth of attention than any of the six down-ticket statewide offices.

So what patterns can we see in those six races?

Consider that the AG's race was one of three on the ballot which had no Democratic contender and just one Libertarian contender. In those three races, Jackley drew the highest vote and held his Libertarian opponent to the lowest vote. In the other two—auditor and commissioner of school and public lands, voter drop-off was much larger, suggesting that thousands of Democrats decided not to bother. In the three down-ticket races that had Democratic nominees, participation went up and Libertarian vote counts plunged.

We cannot read any dissatisfaction with AG Jackley into yesterday's vote total. Instead we can conclude that Jackley is the most popular Republican in the state. Either Jackley drew more Democrats who otherwise weren't interested in a GOP–Lib choice, or Jackley drew the attention of more law-and-order Republicans and Independents who want Marty to be their guy (or maybe a little of both!).

And if we squint, we may also discern that the Libertarians, far from proving themselves as a viable challenger to the Democrats for the status of opposition party, mostly served as a placeholder for a fraction of Democrats waiting for a broader Democratic slate next time.

p.s.: In campaign zen, School and Public Lands candidate John English terminated his campaign on September 13 yet earned the highest Libertarian vote total. Democratic candidate for Secretary of State Angelia Schultz ran a late and hard-to-notice campaign, never sang the way Rick Weiland did, yet beat Rick's vote total by 1,724.

Neo: What are you trying to tell me? That I can dodge bullets?

Morpheus: No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to [The Matrix, 1999].