I apologize: yesterday I said I'd get to some analysis of the Rep. Kristi Noem–Corinna Robinson debate Thursday night on SDPB. Alas, news happens.

The ever level-headed Ken Santema took time out from his vigorous campaign for State Treasurer to blog the debate. He summarizes the thematic highlights, then comes to the remarkable conclusion that neither Noem nor Robinson deserves his vote:

...from a liberty-minded point of view this was not a good debate. There was no true advocate for civil liberties or truly reducing the power of the federal government as a whole. For that reason I will likely stick with my gut feeling from a couple of months ago and leave both circles blank on this part of the ballot. I don’t feel either candidate will stand for civil liberties and economic freedom. South Dakota may not allow write-ins on ballots, but it sure allows for people to skip voting for certain races or ballot questions. This would be a good one to refrain from voting [Ken Santema, "Noem and Robinson SDPB Debate Solidifies Who I Will Vote for in the US House Race," SoDakLiberty, 2014.10.17].

Santema's notes support my main observation from the debate: Rep. Kristi Noem continues to effectively recite the talking points her bosses hand her, while Corinna Robinson continues to recite the talking points she's cobbled together while failing to turn them into focused, effective attacks on the incumbent.

Here are the things Robinson needs to do to win the last big debate on KELO on Friday, October 24:

  1. Use every minute. Moderator Stephanie Rissler regularly offered rebuttal time, and Robinson regularly waved that time off. Even when Noem took the rebuttal time, Robinson sometimes passed. Aaacck! When you're on TV, and someone offers you a chance to talk on TV, you talk!
  2. Prep. Prep prep prep. The savings question at 40:00 caught you unprepared, as demonstrated by the stalling fluster-fluff that preceded your eventual tie-in to policy. You should be sitting down with advisors for days before each debate practicing every imaginable question, even dumb questions, even vague questions. You cannot do this in your own head. You have to have your campaign staff briefing you, drilling you, telling you to do it again.
  3. Attack specifics. The Farm Bill question offered a perfect opportunity to hammer Rep. Noem on policy failures. Noem's inability to move policy left us without a Farm Bill for 15 months. The Farm Bill contained all sorts of groaners: cuts to food stamps, boosts to crop insurance (the cash cow that keeps Kristi's hubby Bryon in paychecks), continued handouts to wealthy corporations, reductions in conservation... and in the face of all that, you open your response by agreeing with Rep. Noem that the Farm Bill is "adequate"?
  4. Attack smart. You did try to attack Rep. Noem on an obvious weakness: her family's three-million-dollar reliance on farm subsidies. A Republican on welfare cutting benefits for less fortunate—this should be an easy, potent attack. But you botched the attack by sloppily asserting that Rep. Noem received $500,000 "just this year alone." That claim is unsupportable because farm subsidy numbers for this year haven't been published yet. That claim also opens the door for Rep. Noem to make you look deceitful and dumb:

    The only way that you can participate in farm programs is if you are actively engaged in agriculture, which I'm currently not [Rep. Kristi Noem, debate on South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Vermillion, SD, 2014.10.16].

    If you were reading the briefs, you'd know that, and you'd practice phrasing your attack to avoid giving Noem that easy, fact-based dodge.

Beating Rep. Noem in a debate should be easy. Get past the pretty, and she still has no punch. Put her on the run, and she still can't marshal the intellectual moxie to reach past her script and grapple with hard facts.

But she's had four years of practice, and lots of well-paid staff to help her practice. Winging it and waving off rebuttals won't beat the Noem machine. Relentless briefing, practice, and smart attacks will.

Now, back to the depositions....

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Two pictures tell the story of last night's debate between Corinna Robinson and Rep. Kristi Noem:

Robinson SDPB 20141016

Corinna Robinson, SDPB debate, 2014.10.16

Noem SDPB 20141016

Rep. Kristi Noem, SDPB debate, 2014.10.16

Corinna Robinson is trying hard, but she can't figure out how to aim her message at the voters. Throughout the debate she kept looking around the studio at Rep. Noem, at Stephanie Rissler (who inexcusably kept referring to the Democrat by her first name while calling the Republican by her formal title), at pretty much every point but the camera, which she seemed to favor with only the most occasional nervous glances.

Ms. Robinson, when you're in a debate, look at the people you need to convince. Your opponent and your moderator won't be convinced. Look at the camera.

Rep. Noem quite successfully and hypnotically fixes her glistening eyes on the camera and on the hearts of the voters whom she knows must love her... and who thus must forgive her the shrugging smirk with which she punctuates her answers. I have to say this crap, that cheeky grimace seems to say. I'm just keeping the seat warm. What else do you expect?

Enjoy those images while I dig for substance in last night's debate. Report coming up later today!

60 comments

And now a message from Bryon Noem:

We've got a busy few days ahead of us on the campaign trail!

My wife Kristi will be participating in two debates in the coming week, starting with the Rapid City Journal Debate on Tuesday, October 14th and then the South Dakota Public Broadcasting Congressional Debate on Thursday, October 16th.

We're hoping for a big crowd at the Rapid City Journal Debate (University Center - 4300 Cheyenne Blvd.) and hope you’ll join our team at the pre-debate rally at 11:00am. Wear a Kristi for Congress t-shirt or pick one up at the event and cheer Kristi on before the noon debate.

On Thursday, you can tune-in to the South Dakota Public Broadcasting Congressional Debate at 7:00pm (MT) on TV and online (http://sdpb.org). It will also be aired on public radio the next day at 11:00am (MT).

This is an exciting opportunity for Kristi to discuss the issues, the progress she's made in Congress, and the challenges that still lie ahead. We're looking forward to these debates and hope you are too!

What issues would you like Kristi to talk about? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter today to share your thoughts and tune-in next week!

Thank you for your support.

Regards,

Bryon Noem [campaign fundraising e-mail, 2014.10.11]

I am pleased that Bryon and Kristi both recognize that debating in Rapid City is an "exciting opportunity" to "discuss the issues." And heck, Congresswoman Noem is making that trip even though she has held stable double-digit leads over her Democratic challenger Corinna Robinson in every poll this year, including the poll Robinson herself touted last spring as demonstrating her path to victory.

Dang, maybe the SDGOP should have gotten Noem to run for the Senate and let some less qualified Republican luck his way into the House seat.

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Rep. Kristi Noem retools Mike Rounds's "South Dakota common sense" mantra to say the the economy would be fine if the feds just did things the way South Dakota does. Her weekly column cites the new French cheese plant as affirmation of South Dakota's tax policies and work ethic:

...Our state tax policy makes it cheaper to run a business. The workforce is one of the most dedicated and talented in the country. We put our hearts into everything we produce. And we are surrounded by communities that generously support each other during the good times and pull together like a family would during the hard times.

It’s probably no wonder, then, that I joined Gov. Dennis Daugaard to welcome a new manufacturer to Brookings. In addition to 3M and Daktronics, Brookings is now home to a new Babybel cheese manufacturing facility. It was an honor to welcome them to our state [Rep. Kristi Noem, "SD's Economic Policies Worth Copying," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2014.10.07].

First, let's be clear: most people everywhere work hard and help their neighbors. South Dakota workers are not uniquely virtuous. Working folks in New York or Texas or California are not uniquely lazy or anti-social.

As for the Bel Brands cheese plant, let's review the main reasons the French decided to build in Brookings:

  1. South Dakota saved its dwindling dairy herd by luring foreign investment through a government program to sell green cards.
  2. South Dakota handed Bel Brands $5 million in corporate welfare.
  3. Brookings offers Bel Brands access to skilled graduates of one of only two university programs in the country offering degrees in dairy production and manufacturing. That program is at South Dakota State University. State University, as in, made possible by good big government.

So really, Republican Kristi Noem is telling the country to be more like South Dakota: use big government to benefit big business.

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Northern Plains News reports that Democrats Susan Wismer and Corinna Robinson have not moved their poll needles since July. Nielson Brothers Polling surveyed over 600 likely voters from September 21 to September 25 and found the races for Governor and House looking statistically identical to the results two months ago:

Nielson percentages July Sept
Daugaard 53 53
Wismer 29 28
Myers 7 10
undecided 12 9
Noem 54 55
Robinson 37 37
undecided 10 9

Evidently Wismer's takedown of Governor Daugaard at Dakotafest went unnoticed by the electorate. So has anything else she or Robinson has done during or since the August fair ramp-up of the campaign.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers's climb to 10% could be noteworthy as his first post-primary double-digit polling. But the three-point climb from Nielsons' July poll is still within the margin of error, meaning we can read no momentum into the result.

Nielson Brothers Polling has been branded a Democratic-leaning polling firm. It is thus interesting (or disheartening, depending on your inclinations) to see that NBP consistently scores Wismer, Robinson, and their Senate field counterpart Rick Weiland lower than the Survey USA poll published earlier this month.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, the Jim Mowrer campaign is crowing about a transportation union poll that shows the Democrat just three points under his incumbent Republican wingnut opponent Rep. Steve King. Managing Mowrer's aspiring campaign is Ben Nesselhuf, who used to run the South Dakota Democratic Party.

5 comments

Survey USA releases the full results of its September 3–7 poll of the South Dakota political landscape. Unsurprisingly, it finds that Rep. Kristi Noem is beating her Democratic opponent Corinna Robinson, just as her Republican counterparts are winning the other races polled (Senate, Governor, and Secretary of State). But surprisingly, Robinson polls higher, 40%, than Democratic gubernatorial candidate Susan Wismer (34%) and Democratic Senate candidate Rick Weiland (28%).

Corinna Robinson, Democrat for U.S. House in South Dakota, 2014

Corinna wears cowboy hat, Corinna outscores Rick and Susan. Coincidence?

Part of Robinson's anomalous high (and that we can call 40% "high" deserves mockery from all of my Republican readers) comes from the absence of any third-party challengers from her race. Robinson can claim all of the anti-Noem votes, while Weiland has to share the majority who don't like Mike with the combusting Larry Pressler. Indy Mike Myers's drain a couple points of anti-Daugaard vote from Wismer's tally.

But the embarrassing fact is that among Robinson, Wismer, and Weiland, Robinson is mounting the weakest campaign (weaker debate performance, far less money raised than Weiland, less ambitious touring) yet has more people checking Democrat than either counterpart. Even among Democrats, Robinson is scoring highest, pulling 78% of the Dems surveyed compared with 65% sticking with Wismer and 56% sticking with Weiland. Democrats, seriously, do you ever reward performance?

When folks in the Weiland and Wismer war rooms can consider riding Corinna Robinson's coattails as a serious campaign strategy, something is seriously out of whack.

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Rep. Kristi Noem has chickened out of debating Corinna Robinson this weekend, but she will still be lurking around the State Fair. At 2 p.m. today, she will accept a "Friend of the Prairie" award on the Freedom Stage from the South Dakota Grassland Coalition.

If you want to talk to Congresswoman Noem about what she's done to deserve such an award (cutting subsidies to farmers plowing virgin prairie, but reducing the CRP maximum CRP acreage from 32 million acres to 24 million acres and CRP funding from $400 million to $250 million?) or to ask her questions that she might have faced in a debate with Robinson, the Princess directs you to contact her staff.

Worth nothing is the fact that Team Noem sends out notice of her appearance at the State Fair one day before it happens. Sometimes it seems as if Rep. Noem just doesn't want attention. Rep. Noem visited Madison Tuesday, but it was another of those surprise, invitation-only, elites-only visits that doesn't make the paper until after it's done. Her staff appear to have posted notice of that event the day it happened, minimizing the opportunity for the press and other interested citizens to come see their Congresswoman.

11 comments

While Corinna Robinson talked sense about the Keystone XL pipeline (risk to water supplies, oil shipped to China, jobs nowhere near as numerous or impactful as TransCanada pretends), I hear Rep. Kristi Noem is trying to spread the flow by arguing that TransCanada's tar sands pipeline will free up more rail capacity for farm products.

Alas, farmers are buying this baloney:

Farmers and ranchers have a stake in the Keystone XL project, said Randy Miiller, who farms near Mount Vernon.

Miiller said trucks carrying oil from North Dakota are damaging roads in South Dakota. Meanwhile, the oil companies have been driving up the cost of rail for farmers. There is less rail capacity for farm products, and it's more expensive.

"Without the XL pipeline, to me it's a slow cancer to all the farmers," Miiller said. "It's going to kill us" [Jonathan Ellis, "Noem, Robinson Disagree on Keystone XL Pipeline," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.08.19].

Pssst, Randy! Did you notice that the first Keystone pipeline through East River didn't do diddly to free up rail cars for your corn? That pipeline isn't moving any Bakken crude. 92% of the oil in Keystone XL will be Canadian oil. Even if Bakken producers can get any oil into Keystone XL, they might still prefer to use your rail cars, since they get access to more refineries.

Here's a thought, farmers and Republican Congress critters: if you really think the rail shortage is critical, why not entertain some other, less risky solutions? Instead of eminent domaining West River landowners to transfer their property rights to a private foreign corporation, why not impose on the railroad corporations' rights? Why not require that, at the peak of the harvest, the railroads give priority to American agricultural products?

If we're going to use eminent domain, shouldn't we use it for American interests? And what meets American interests more: shipping mostly Canadian oil, or shipping American corn?

36 comments

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