Pat Powers continues to feed his desperate need to insult Rick Weiland. This morning he recycles his tired language about Weiland being an "awful" candidate. His latest attack spins around the shaky thesis that Weiland "shuns" President Obama and thus loses his Democratic base to Obama-loving Larry Pressler.

Reality check: I am Rick Weiland's liberal, Obama-loving base. I like Pressler better than Powers does (insult-addicted Powers today calls Pressler "foppish"), but there is no way Pressler pulls me from Weiland.

As "evidence" of Weiland's shunning the President, Powers says Weiland did not attend the President's visit to "a ND/SD Indian reservation." President Obama visited the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock reservation in June. I get the feeling that if Weiland had traveled to Cannon Ball, 40 miles north of the ND-SD border, Powers would have teased Rick for campaigning where no one could vote for him (and I might have, too!).

Powers the insult-fop (yeah, I can call names, too) doesn't address real policy differences between Weiland and Obama. If he did delve into policy, he'd find that where Weiland diverges from the President, Weiland is actually tacking even more strongly into the Democratic base camp.

Consider health care. Weiland affirms the merits of the Affordable Care Act, but he dings the President for not going far enough. Weiland says the President should have kept the public option on the table, and he supports creating a public option by letting anyone buy into Medicare. That's a great pitch to a Democratic base that craves gutsy Dems not accepting the GOP fear-narratives.

Or consider Keystone XL. The President has helpfully delayed the project, but he's never come out and said no to the Canadian tar-sands export project. Weiland has taken much firmer stands against the pipeline, again cheering the Democratic base.

Weiland agrees with the President on the need for net neutrality, although Rick was ahead of the President in speaking out on the issue.

Even Pat's own SDGOP handlers disagree with Pat's morning burp. The GOP calls Weiland a "loyal foot solider" of President Obama (pick a message, guys!)

Whoever Weiland may be losing to Pressler, it's not the Democratic base. Maybe it's Indies who lean left but get nervous about being called Dems. Maybe it's nostalgic old folks. Maybe it's just a figment of Powers's wishful imagination, lacking for original and accurate arguments to make. But as the campaign kicks into high gear, we'll dismiss the latter, and win over the former as they realize Weiland means business. Weiland is with the President on the good stuff, and where Weiland diverges from the President, Weiland is pushing for even stronger, gutsier Democratic positions that will be good not just for Democrats' aspiring souls but for South Dakota and the country as a whole.

Update 08:37 MDT: If any doubt as to Weiland's credibility as a candidate and a Democratic base booster, consider this announcement fresh from Team Weiland: Rick has just hired fiery Democratic consultant Steve Jarding as senior advisor and spokesman. Jarding works for winners, and he's working for Weiland. Now let's really rumble!

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O.K., I've had enough. There's some crowing going around about the South Dakota Libertarian Party's "huge success" in recruiting candidates at its convention last Saturday. The Libertarians found warm bodies for six of the seven statewide slots filled directly by party convention nomination.

"Libertarians 6, Democrats 3," chortles Bob Mercer, referring to the South Dakota Democratic Party's embarrassing failure to nominate candidates for attorney general, treasurer, and commissioner of school and public lands. My friend and convention-goer Leo Kallis says the SDLP are "rightfully rejoicing." Ken Santema deems his party's achieving a status that Dems could not "somewhat notable."

You know what's notable? The South Dakota Libertarian Party nominated six candidates (the most prominent of whom, according to a check of the official state voter registration database after supper tonight is still a registered Republican and thus, under state law and per the Arndt precedent, cannot be certified as a Libertarian nominee) who didn't have to do anything more to qualify for the ballot that show up at the library and say "Why not?"

And did you notice I said they filled six of seven statewide slots? Let's not forget the one Libertarians left empty that Democrats didn't: lieutenant governor. The SDLP didn't nominate a louie-gov because they failed to get anyone to run for gov. All they needed to do was get one of those eager conventioneers to spend the winter lining up a measly 250 Libertarian signatures. The Democrats and Republicans both had two people manage that minor feat of organization and perspiration and undergo a statewide primary.

But that was too much work for the Libertarians, whose laggardliness will now cost them their status as a recognized party. SDCL 12-1-3 conditions party status on fielding a gubernatorial candidate who wins at least 2.5% of the popular vote in November. Whatever status Libertarians get from nominating more candidates at convention than Dems, on November 4, the SDLP will lose its existential status, because it couldn't put first things first.

But if we're really going to play this numbers game, let's look at all the numbers. The Libertarians have six candidates. Yay. Democrats have 70 (71, if we count Susy Blake for lieutenant governor separately). That's Weiland for Senate, Robinson for House, Wismer for Governor, Schultz for Secretary of State, Pierson for treasurer, Allen for PUC, and 64 candidates for state legislature.

That 64 still stinks, stinks, stinks considering that there are 105 seats in the Legislature, and I will be kicking in chairs and knocking tables at Democratic meetings asking why we can't fill that roster. But that 64 is (literally, mathematically) infinitely better than the big zero Libertarians have vying for Legislature. And I'm not even counting the dozens more Democrats who are running for county commissioner, sheriff, and other local offices, ballot lines from which Libertarians are also absolutely absent.

To top it off, some of our 70 Democratic candidates will win. None of the Libertarians will. Again, that's infinitely better performance by Democrats.

We South Dakota Democrats aren't rejoicing—we have lots of problems, and lots of work to do. But we Dems have far more real candidates than emerged from the SDLP's weekend pizza party. We have a far more real party.

And after Election Day, we'll still have a party, unlike the Libertarians. I'd call that somewhat notable.

p.s.: The SDLP convention also couldn't hold its quorum's interest long enough to finalize a platform. Santema reports the SDLP executive committee will paste something together later. We thus have six candidates on our statewide ballot who are unified by nothing other than a label that will become legally meaningless the day after the election.

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How can Democrats improve their batting average in South Dakota? Campaign like Jon Hoadley. The Vermillion HS debate alumnus won his Michigan legislative primary Tuesday, beating a 20-year member of the local county board and another challenger by taking 59% of the Democratic vote in District 60, around Kalamazoo.

How does a transplant from South Dakota beat a party stalwart and lifelong resident of his district? Two important parts of his victory appear to be starting early and talking like a Democrat:

"When we started this campaign in December of 2012 ... we had a vision that said we need a Michigan that really was responsive to people; that invested in education; that built an economy that worked for everybody; that protected our environment and promoted social justice; and tonight, we showed that Kalamazoo wants that too," Hoadley said [Alex Mitchell, "'Job Well Done,' Jon Hoadley Tells Supporters After Securing Democratic Nomination for 60th House District," MLive.com, 2014.08.07].

Hoadley started almost two years before the general election for the same reason Mike Rounds did here in South Dakota: he intended to use that time to raise money. That plan paid off:

Hoadley distanced himself from Buskirk through a strong fundraising campaign in which he raised $138,462 during two election cycles from Nov. 27, 2012 to July 20, 2014. That total more than tripled the $45,599 raised by Buskirk during the same span [Alex Mitchell, "'It's an Upsetting Loss,' Says David Buskirk of Defeat in 60th District Democratic Primary," MLive.com, 2014.08.06].

Campaigning for almost two years and raising lots of money—that may not sound easy, but South Dakota Democrats who think winning will be easy will not win.

Folks seeking more detailed advice on how to win elections can hire Hoadley and his team at Badlands Strategies, his apparently successful public relations firm.

Hoadley now has to beat Republican Mike Perrin in the general. If this Perrin video from 2012 is any indication, the articulate Hoadley should mop the floor with him. Go get him, Jon!

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What might be the closest race in South Dakota's 2014 election? If Nielson Brothers' polling numbers are accurate, it could be the battle for seats in the South Dakota Senate. In its July 23–28 survey, Nielson asked voters whether they would pick the Republican or the Democrat in their district for State Senate. The results of that generic question:

  • Republican: 41.9%
  • Democrat: 36.7%
  • undecided: 21.4%

That 5.2-point gap is barely larger than the 4.3-point margin of error. It's far smaller than the 13-, 18-, and 24-point gaps that Nielson finds Democrats Rick Weiland, Corinna Robinson, and Susan Wismer must surmount in their statewide races. And that gap is mde tighter by one very telling result: while Republicans and Democrats each line up for their own party's State Senate candidate at rates over 70% (Republican defections stand at 13%; Democratic defections are just 5%, with a much larger percentage who need to read this blog remaining undecided), Independents are breaking Democrat 3 to 2 (actual percentages: 24% R, 36% D, 40% still thinking).

Those numbers indicate that out of the 100,000 strong Indy voting bloc, Dems are getting more than an 11,000-vote advantage. If the remaining Indy unsures broke the same way, Dems would raise that edge to 18,000. If the partisan undecideds broke according to their partisan fellows' according percentages as well, the total vote count from the entire registered voting pool would be 255,000 votes for Republican State Senate candidates and 258,000 votes for Democratic State Senate candidates.

In other words, if all things were equal, South Dakota Democrats could have an advantage in State Senate races of less than one percentage point... and we could have recounts almost everywhere.

Of course, things are not equal. Republicans have drawn legislative district lines to herd Dem leaners into a few safe seats. More importantly, Nielson asked the generic question of Republican versus Democrat, not the specific question of Lederman versus Tornberg or Jensen versus Page. When voters put specific names and mostly Republican incumbent faces to that question, and when the SDGOP-Wadhams character-assassination machine gets rolling, those percentages will shift back toward the GOP's favor. And most egregiously, we Democrats have left 13 out of 35 seats unchallenged, so that's over a third of districts where we don't even get to test the Indy lean. (Republicans have left four Senate seats unchallenged.)

A number of factors put Democrats at a disadvantage in most South Dakota races. But the Nielson data on generic partisan preferences in State Senate races indicate that Indies like us and that with their help, we can make the battle for a Senate majority a fair fight. Let's take those numbers as cause for optimism, and let's fight hard for those Senate wins!

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Republican John Tsitrian digs America's two-party system. He thinks three or more parties make a paralyzing muddle, but he thinks one-party rule is even worse.

Tsitrian thinks South Dakota labors under harmful one-party rule. He blames, in part, the abdicant leaders of our Democratic Party:

Where, for example, is Tom Daschle these days?  South Dakotans made him who he is, but Daschle's blow-off of the state and his party's need for some leadership is regrettable and classless....

Corinna Robinson's Congressional campaign is starving for money.  Meantime, U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland looks to be running himself ragged going around the state on a shoestring of a budget against the lavishly-financed Mike Rounds.   Why should South Dakota's Democrats be excited about these candidates when you, Senator Tom Daschle, appear to be indifferent and apathetic?

I pose the same question to Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, bearer of one of South Dakota's legendary political names and a former South Dakota Representative to Congress.  Do you even care, Ms. Sandlin about how your party's fortunes are faring in South Dakota state races, the same South Dakota that your dad served as a state legislator and your grand-dad once governed?  Sheesh.  Come out here and show your face once in a while.

Even that great old liberal warhorse former Senator Jim Abourezk (a fantastic individual who once made it possible for me to visit Syria) could be out there helping out the party, if only within the confines of Sioux Falls as a concession to his age [John Tsitrian, "Memo To South Dakota's Democratic Elder Statesmen: Where Aaaaare Youuuuuu?" The Constant Commoner, 2014.07.30].

For what it's worth, I did just get a letter from Tom Daschle encouraging me to contribute to the SDDP's YELL Fellows program. Tom, Linda, and Nathan Daschle have put $4,009 into Weiland's campaign so far. Herseth Sandlin has put $1,000 into Robinson's campaign.

But whatever letters and money they are contributing, is Tsitrian justified in saying that Daschle, Herseth Sandlin, and Abourezk are derelict in some duty to the South Dakota Democratic Party? What do past office holders owe their party? Sure, parties help candidates get elected, but candidates reciprocate by busting their chops to get elected, by sacrificing privacy, family time, and job opportunities to serve the public. What do Tom and Stephanie still owe the SDDP? For that matter, what do Larry Pressler, Walter Dale Miller, or Clint Roberts owe the SDGOP? What will Kristi Noem and John Thune owe the Republicans when we retire them?

Tsitrian's complaint raises another question: who are the leaders of the South Dakota Democratic Party? Yes, yes, Deb Knecht is the party chair, Zach Crago is our able exec. But who really leads the Democratic Party? Who are the SDDP's William Wallaces, the folks who can paint their faces, shout "Freedom!", and rally Democrats to action? Who tells South Dakota Democrats whom, what, and when to fight? Who can walk into a room of donors and make it rain?

Do Daschle, Herseth Sandlin, or Abourezk wield any power like that? Do our current statewide candidates? Does Bernie Hunhoff? Jason Frerichs? Angie Buhl O'Donnell?

Who's the boss... and who if anyone has an obligation to keep being the boss?

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Hey, remember how South Dakota Republicans embarrassed our great state again in June by passing a resolution calling on the U.S. House to impeach President Obama? Oh, the shame! The perversion of political discourse! I wish they'd never—

Wait a minute. Cue the silver lining:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said Tuesday that the impeachment push has “misfired” on Republicans.

“Look, I understand their strategy is intended to gin up their base, but it’s having the unintended consequence of moving our base in a midterm election and also moving persuadable voters, swing voters to us in a midterm election," Israel said.

Israel said that on Monday alone, the committee raised $1 million online over a 24-hour period... [Alexandra Jaffe, Abby Smith and Cameron Joseph, "SHOCKING: Dems Profiting from Impeachment Hyperbole," The Hill: Ballot Box, 2014.07.29].

Oh. Well-done, South Dakota Republicans! Carry on.

By the way, perhaps as a thank-you, President Obama signed a disaster declaration Monday  for 12 South Dakota counties, meaning South Dakota can get lots of nice federal government handouts to clean up storm debris, fix damaged buildings and infrastructure, and prepare for future tornadoes and floods. Thank you, Mr. President.

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I don't always reprint press releases, but when I do, it's because they're useful.

South Dakota Democratic Party exec Zach Crago offers—with more evidence and hyperlinks than we ever get from the dreary stream of GOP dreckfive good reasons to vote for Initiated Measure 18, South Dakota's minimum-wage increase:

It’s been 5 years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage - but now South Dakotans have a choice on Initiated Measure 18 to raise the minimum wage on November 4th.

In recognition of this anniversary, here are 5 reasons to vote Yes on 18:

1) States that raised the minimum wage saw faster job growth. According to state by state hiring data released by the Department of Labor, states that raised the minimum wage at the beginning of this year actually saw faster job growth than states that didn’t raise the minimum wage – contrary to the scare tactics of special interest critics.

Everyday South Dakotans get it: Put money in the pockets of hard working people, and they’ll send it on the things their families need everyday. That boosts consumer demand at small businesses and grows the economy.

2) Small business owners support raising the minimum wage. According to a recent scientific telephone survey, 61% of small business owners support raising the minimum wage. Why? The report says,

“Small business owners believe that a higher minimum wage would benefit business in important ways: 58% say raising the minimum wage would increase consumer purchasing power. 56% say raising the minimum wage would help the economy. In addition, 53% agree that with a higher minimum wage, businesses would benefit from lower employee turnover and increased productivity and customer satisfaction.”

Small businesses get it too: Workers are customers. When workers earn more, they spend more at small businesses and boost the economy.

3) Prices for everyday goods continue to rise, but the minimum wage has stayed the same. That means a South Dakotan’s hard earned dollar actually buys less and less for her family. Since the last increase in the minimum wage:

  • The price of milk has increased 21.2%
  • The price of eggs has increased 30.3%
  • The price of cheddar cheese has increased 21.9%
  • The price of gas has increased 44.6%
  • The price of electricity has increased 9.2%
  • The minimum wage has increased 0%. 

Too often, South Dakotans are working harder and harder just to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage will help working moms and dads support their families in the face of higher and higher prices at the pump and in the supermarket.

4) 62,000 South Dakotans will earn more if Initiated Measure 18 passes. According to preliminary data from Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage will give 62,000 South Dakotans a raise. Who are they?

  • 78% are older than 20. These aren’t high school students like special interests will tell you.
  • 55% are women – many of whom are supporting families.

5) Raising the minimum wage lifts people out of poverty – and off of government assistance. A full time worker earning the minimum wage makes $14,500 a year, which qualifies many working families for government assistance. Raising the minimum wage will lift many working families out of poverty and reduce the demand for government assistance. It’s a win win for working families and the taxpayers: working families make ends meet, and the public cost of low wages decreases for taxpayers [South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2014.07.24].

Susan WismerPaula Hawks, Robin Page, Mark Remily, all you Democratic candidates, if you're looking for stump speech material, this is it. Every speech you make from now until November should borrow at least some of Crago's text. Telling people why they should vote for the minimum-wage increase also tells them how we Democrats support South Dakota's best interests better than Republicans. Vote for Dems, and vote for 18!

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I may agree with 52% of the Libertarian platform, but I'm in 99.5% agreement with Senator Elizabeth Warren's progressive principles, which she offered Friday, July 18, at Netroots Nation in Detroit. Let's do some line by line!

1. "We believe that Wall Street needs stronger rules and tougher enforcement, and we're willing to fight for it."

  • Crash your truck into city hall, and you will spend time in jail. Get a bunch of greedy MBAs together and crash the global economy, and you don't even get a ticket. Yup, I'm with you, Senator Warren.

2. "We believe in science, and that means that we have a responsibility to protect this Earth."

  • Prayer didn't decrease acid rain, and Jesus won't get us to Mars or Alpha Centauri.

3. "We believe that the Internet shouldn't be rigged to benefit big corporations, and that means real net neutrality."

  • Internet is like water now: information and equal access for all.

4. "We believe that no one should work full-time and still live in poverty, and that means raising the minimum wage."

5. "We believe that fast-food workers deserve a livable wage, and that means that when they take to the picket line, we are proud to fight alongside them."

  • I'll take a half-point off for singling out fast-food workers; every worker deserves a livable wage. That said, food service folks, I'm with you, right beside Senator Warren.

6. "We believe that students are entitled to get an education without being crushed by debt."

  • The less debt students are saddled with when they start working, the more money they can pour into (a) immediate economic activity and (b) long-term savings, both of which improve our national budget situation.

7. "We believe that after a lifetime of work, people are entitled to retire with dignity, and that means protecting Social Security, Medicare, and pensions."

  • Work should be a vocation, an activity in which we take pride. But in a wealthy society, even the luckiest workers who love their jobs should have the liberty to say, "I've done enough" and rest.

8. "We believe—I can't believe I have to say this in 2014—we believe in equal pay for equal work."

  • Again, every worker has dignity. Pay must respect that dignity. To say one worker has less dignity than another is immoral.

9. "We believe that equal means equal, and that's true in marriage, it's true in the workplace, it's true in all of America."

10. "We believe that immigration has made this country strong and vibrant, and that means reform."

  • If the Iroquois had rounded up the Cherokee, Lakota, and others and built better walls, we wouldn't be here.

11. "And we believe that corporations are not people, that women have a right to their bodies. We will overturn Hobby Lobby and we will fight for it. We will fight for it!"

  • How can we treat Hobby Lobby like a person while treating women like breeding stock?

Yup, looks like I'm a 99.5% Warren Democrat. Rick, you are too, right? Corinna? Susan? Come on, what Democrat wouldn't be? What worker, mother, son, or American wouldn't be?

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