The GOP spin machine, not content to simply celebrate victory, spikes the ball in our faces by hurling false insults my way. Pat Powers tells his giddy readers that I have nothing to say about the election. Really, Pat? Really? You spend the entire election currying favor, ignoring important stories, and reprinting press releases, and you tell me I have nothing to say?


I don't want to redund with my post on Pressler's concession missive, but with an eye toward how we win in 2016, let's talk about why most South Dakota Democrats lost in 2014.

1. Mid-terms. It's mid-terms, people. This is what happens.

2. President Obama. South Dakota Republicans hate him. As the Emperor and Darth Vader will tell you, hate will make you powerful, more powerful than...

3. President Obama. South Dakota Democrats don't love him. They should. President Obama's policies have been better than GOP brew all along. President Obama has produced more economic success than Mitt Romney promised, but the economy's had to climb so far to make up for the Bush recession that it's still not good enough for us to whoop and holler about it and alchemize jingly-pocket voter confidence into votes. The Affordable Care Act is just what Republican doctors were ordering before they turned completely obstructionist in 2008 and is better than either the status quo ante or any repeal-replacement the GOP has offered, but it's not the instant, sweeping, easy to explain solution that casual voters and nervous candidates can wrap their arms around. Democrats don't love Obama as much as Republicans hate him, and you can see which group gets more fired up about voting.

4. Money. Dems can't make it. Between the primary and the pre-general report, the South Dakota Democratic Party took in $40,000 and spent $25,000. During the same period, the South Dakota Republican Party took in $256,000 and spent $243,000.

Republicans don't outnumber Democrats 10 to 1. They don't outearn us at their day jobs 10 to 1. The SDDP can find Democrats who can invest a lot more in the party.

Of course, the SDDP has to offer a product worth investing in, starting with...

5. Top-Tier Candidates. Rick Weiland didn't start top tier. He rose to that level. He's the only Democrat who did. Against enormous odds, he never flagged. To the last moment, he was working the media, the volunteers, and the public. He never matched Rounds's money, and no one expected he would, but he earned six figures every quarter, topped $200K every quarter this year, and crescendoed to $556K in Q3 and $330K just in October.

Susan Wismer almost always sounded like she'd rather not have people aiming microphones and cameras at her. She didn't start raising serious money to contend with the Daugaard machine until after the primary. Corinna Robinson couldn't keep a campaign team together. Her quarterly campaign kitty never cracked six digits. At no point did either candidate command attention and create the impression that she posed a credible threat to the incumbent.

The inability of Wismer and Robinson to rise to Weiland's level left Weiland fighting the battle all by himself. We got no superstar synergy, no expanding excitement, no celebrity team who could drop into legislative races and raise the fortunes (both meanings) of local candidates.

I know it's asking a lot of a very thin field, but we need to find two candidates for 2016, House and Senate, who can set a room on fire. We need two candidates who shake your hand and make you feel like the most important person in the world. We need candidates who not only like the mic but take control of every interview and leave every reporter wanting to write ten Pulitzer stories.

And we need two candidates who get every Democrat in South Dakota to get up and vote Democrat. I'm taking applications now.

6. Negative Campaigning. As in Rick Weiland and the rest of us didn't do enough of it. Republicans demonstrate over and over that negative campaigning works. They negate the liberal, Democratic brand. They destroy Democrats of good conscience like Kathy Tyler. And when we do it back to Republicans, they cry "trash talk!" and get by with it.

Rick Weiland seemed to try a nice-guy approach. When outside groups leapt to his aid with his best hope, blistering negative ads on Mike Rounds's EB-5 scandal, Weiland asked those groups to withdraw those ads and stay positive. That tack undermined the substance of those ads. If your opponent is demonstrably corrupt and should not be Senator, you should say that in every interview and debate you can. When your opponent calls that trash talk, you say you're just taking out the trash, throw the evidence in his face, and demand a response.

Grow up, Dems. We need to push through the initial resistance voters pretend to have to such ads, and say, "Yeah, it's negative, but it's the truth." Never be ashamed of telling the truth.

Which reminds me—

7. Anonymous Social Media. Someone in the Democratic Party wasted a lot of time and energy publishing the "Flyover Wire" blog and Twitter account. They exaggerated some stories, threw some insults, and made no more positive impact than Lowell Feld's astroturf "Badlands Blue" back in 2008. When I interacted with them, they refused to identify themselves. In other words, they couldn't even show a fellow Democrat the trust and respect of speaking with a real name.

Social media does not make an impact independent of identity, especially in South Dakota. Anonymous shouters will be dismissed as party tools by the pundits and ignored by everyone else. And when they disappear immediately after the election, these anonymous tools only make Democrats look worse. (Same goes for Republican tools.) Social media wastes campaign resources unless you're going to tell us who you are and stick around to engage the community beyond the election.

8. Ballot Measure Synergy. We Dems have made great hay of our success with ballot measures lately. In the midst of this year's destruction, we got 55% of voters to approve a Democratic initiative to raise the minimum wage. In 2012, we referred and defeated our Republican governor's school reform bill and an economic development slush fund. We've beaten both abortion ballot measures that South Dakotans have gotten their hands on. On pure policy, South Dakotans vote Democrat.

Initiatives offer a huge opportunity (our only opportunity, unless we hit Bernie Hunhoff with gamma rays and he hulks out on Matt Michels) not only to advance policy but advance the party. We should be using the initiative process from start to finish to register Democratic voters, recruit Democratic volunteers, identify Democratic donors, and make every South Dakota voter realize that Democrats are where it's at. We should be putting a whole batch of initiatives on the ballot around which our candidates can rally. If Republicans can make state legislative races a referendum on President Obama's policies, we Democrats should be able to make local legislative and county commission races referenda on the great and beneficent policies that we Democrats put on the ballot while Republicans gripe and moan and try to suppress their vote.

And after every initiative victory, we come back to voters and say, "You know all those good things happening to you because of that initiative you voted for? That was a Democratic idea. You're welcome. Now vote for us." (You may insert colorful expletives as you see fit.)

* * *

There's much more to retooling the South Dakota Democratic Party and winning in 2016. I'm sure I'll be writing more on that topic for the rest of this year and on through the next. For now, let's look for the Democratic leaders who can rouse the initiatives, the candidates, and the money we need to lead the charge in 2016.

And don't forget to delete Flyover Wire from your RSS feeds.