Independent Senate candidate Gordon Howie thinks his Republican opponent Mike Rounds took a beating today. Howie does what a smart challenger should... rubs it in:

Funny that Rounds could motivate both Howie to get active in the Republican Party and motivate me to abandon that party. I'd like to hear from Rep. Noem herself whether Rounds's death-tax votes had anything to do with her political aspirations... but I do find it interesting that Howie is buttering up Noem... perhaps as penance for bolting the party and challenging their favorite this year?

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Lefty blogger Michael Larson and righty blogger Ken Santema agree: neither Rep. Kristi Noem nor Corinna Robinson said much worthwhile at Tuesday's Dakotafest "debate" (a term to which Santema explicitly and Larson implicitly object, given the absence of real clash).

Of course, equal failure means the incumbent won.

Just Friday, the liberal Larson posted a glowing review of Robinson's performance on friendly turf at the Sioux Falls Democratic Forum. But Robinson's driftiness in Mitchell draws this coachly advice:

Noem left a lot of issues unanswered and avoided them in the debate. There were a lot of strong moments for Robinson in this debate; however, she must get more aggressive and must be near flawless if she hopes to defeat Noem [Michael Larson, "Corinna Robinson and Missed Opportunities," Taking a Left Turn in South Dakota, 2014.08.19].

The conservative Santema is equally hard on both candidates, noting Robinson's inability to focus and tailor her talking points to the Dakotafest audience but also taking issue with Noem's continues ideological inconsistency (an issue that still has me wondering how Noem manages to get her highest approval ratings among the Tea Party conservatives who ought to be most riled by ideological wishy-washiness).

Noem can ignore these unfavorable reviews. She has money, name recognition, and the seat. She need only, as Santema points out, say what she needs to get by.

Robinson cannot ignore these reviews from both sides of the aisle. The burden to shift the balance and rock every debate is entirely hers. As Larson and Santema see it, Robinson must retool and practice her messaging and her on-the-spot responses to Noem's lazy rhetoric.

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Jackrabbit Farms, a new 5000-head hog farm south of Mount Vernon, is making a stink:

Neighbor Lyle Reimnitz said company representatives told him before construction that the facility would smell less than 2 percent of the time, and that hasn't been the case.

"I'm going to have to live there. I don't plan on dying any time today," Reimnitz said. "And I will not live with that stench in my yard."

Barry Kerkaert, a veterinarian with facility manager Pipestone System, said officials never promised that Jackrabbit Farms would be odor-free. Pipestone attorney Sean Simpson said the company has done what the county and neighbors have asked, including spending $30,000 on biofilters.

"What I suspect is that we're in a position where we'll never fully satisfy the neighbors of the smell," Simpson said. "Until there's scientific data supporting some of this, we're not just going to spend money every month or year to try to meet these unreasonable requests" ["South Dakota Hog Farm, Neighbors Battle over Smell," AP via Rapid City Journal, 2014.08.14].

Yes, because it's unreasonable to expect a business to live up to its claims and not make life unbearable for its neighbors.

You know, all those service jobs toward which South Dakota's economy is shifting don't emit nearly as many noxious fumes. Maybe instead of expending resources to promote polluting mega-dairies and help counties identify sites for giant, smelly concentrated animal feeding operations like Jackrabbit Farms, the state should consider helping counties attract businesses with less noxious impact on air and water.

By the way, Davison County neighbors, recall that Rep. Kristi Noem showed up at the Jackrabbit Family Farms' opening last year to say the hog lot would be great for family farms and national security. It would be nice if she would as eagerly drop by neighboring houses when the breeze carrying the stench of 5000 pigs' worth of poop imprisons neighbors in their homes. Neighbors, you can extend that invitation to Noem at DakotaFest next week on Tuesday, August 19.

Noem is touring nearby towns already, but she wants to hear about people's frustration with government, not people's frustration with corporations.

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Nielson Brothers Polling unearths another anomaly in the thinking of South Dakota voters. Their July 23–28 survey of voters found that Governor Dennis Daugaard enjoys more support than Congresswoman Kristi Noem among almost every political group:

Daugaard Noem
Overall Job Approval % 64.1 58.0
...among GOP 82.0 80.4
...among Dems 41.0 29.2
...among Indies 62.4 50.5
...among liberals 24.1 5.8
...among conservatives 77.4 78.0
...among “Tea Party” 87.8 96.5

Among the political affiliations and self-identifications checked by Nielson, the only folks who are more likely (outside the margin of error) to get a bigger charge out of Kristi Noem's performance than Dennis Daugaard's are Tea Party people.

Help me understand this difference. If I were a Tea Partier, in what way could I say that Rep.  Noem is doing her job in Washington in better alignment with my desires than Governor Daugaard is doing his job in Pierre? Does Noem's support for the Farm Bill, 16 months late as it was, epitomize the Tea Party vision for government better than, say, Daugaard's support for criminal justice reform? Does Noem's government shutdown demonstrate greater fealty to Tea Party principles than Daugaard's "new norm" of permanently hamstringing public education funding?

Is the difference something they don't do? Does Noem's failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act make her a bigger Tea Party hero than Daugaard's failed effort to repeal tenure and impose merit pay on public school teachers?

Noem and Daugaard have both caught heck for not brewing strong enough Tea. In 2012, the Club for Growth gave Noem a nearly failing score for Tea Party economic policy. Daugaard is widely and correctly viewed as one of the more moderate members of the South Dakota Republican Party (which in South Dakota is like saying John Sullivan is one of the lighter members of the Minnesota Vikings' offensive line). At no point in the last ffour years has either Noem or Daugaard really foamed at the mouth over the prospect of watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants and RINOs. Tea isn't their cup of tea.

I'm left wondering if that anomalous Tea Party bent for Kristi simply boils down to image. Noem on a horse is a lady Reagan. Daugaard looks kinda studly in his checked shirts, but we all know he's not a cowboy; he's a lawyer-banker type. Policy equivalence doesn't matter, because Tea Partiers don't vote with their cerebra. They vote with their limbic systems. On an emotional level, Noem better affirms who we want to be and who we want our ladies to be.

And maybe, just maybe, supporting Noem provides the most regressively conservative among us another form of emotional comfort that Daugaard cannot: What do those dirty liberals mean, calling me a missoggy— miso soup— Mississauga— sexist, just because I want to ban abortion, block equal pay laws, and restore 1950s-style gender oppression? I like Kristi Noem! See? I can't be sexist!

If I'm missing something more substantive that would explain Noem's higher approval than Daugaard's among Tea Party voters, let me know. But I just can't see the job performance markers that would earn Noem any different score from Daugaard from the most radical conservative voters.

p.s., from the Thinking Out Loud Department: The difference between Daugaard's approval rating and Noem's is 6.1 percentage points. The difference between Daugaard's lead over Susan Wismer and Noem's lead over Corinna Robinson is 6.3 percentage points.

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An eager reader suggests that Congresswoman Kristi Noem's photo of State Senator Chuck Welke is news:

I'm looking for the headline here...

Rep. Noem takes a moment to tweet a picture of herself with her current state senator, Chuck Welke, who happens to be a Democrat. No problem: I consort with folks on the other side of the aisle all the time, and it doesn't mean I endorse them. Rep. Noem has been working on the youth vote with her couch-sleeping cred; why not burnish her bipartisanship with an easy photo?

But Demcoratic State Senator Welke is running for re-election against Republican State Rep. Brock Greenfield, who served alongside Noem when she was stuck in Pierre. Where's the Noem–Greenfield picture from Castlewood Days? Does the Welke–Noem photo implicitly endorse Welke or boost Welke's vote count?

Unlikely. The photo isn't that great for Welke's press purposes: he's not smiling, she's not looking at the camera, and it's cloudy. The photo says less about about Noem and more about Greenfield: if he wanted a picture with our Congresswoman, he should have trucked his golf cart to Castlewood, too. (Welke and Greenfield could enter the mud drags today at Memorial Park! Now that would be awesome politicking!)

Greenfield did send Noem's campaign $250 last winter. I have yet to see any Noem money in the Greenfield campaign kitty, but the Secretary of State's campaign finance report viewer appears to be broken, and the election season is yet young!

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Northern Plains News and Nielson Brothers Polling have released the third round of polling for their July survey of South Dakota voters. Like the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, NBP finds the Democrat trailing in the U.S. House race. But Republican Congresswoman Kristi Noem's double-digit lead over Corinna Robinson offers one small surprise:

  • Rep. Kristi Noem: 53.9%
  • Corinna Robinson: 35.8%
  • undecided: 10.2%

Noem's lead on Robinson is 18 percentage points, three points larger than the margin by which she beat Matt Varilek in 2012. (Lest we get too excited, around this point in 2012, Nielson Brothers found Varilek within one point of Noem.) Governor Dennis Daugaard's lead over Democrat Susan Wismer is 24 percentage points. Robinson is closer to Noem than Wismer is to Daugaard, even though Robinson has lower name recognition than Wismer (41.2% to Wismer's 48.9%—both distressingly low numbers with three months to go until Election Day).

Something stranger is going on in Robinson's favorability numbers:

robinson fav 2

Out of the minority who do recognize Robinson's name, folks with an unfavorable impression outnumber those with a favorable impression by more than two to one. Robinson's favorability gap is slightest among Dems, less than a percentage point. Over five times as many Republicans say "unfavorable" about Robinson than say favorable; among Indies, more than three times as many. That seems like a lot of dislike for generally polite prairie folk (especially those Indies) to express about someone who hasn't done much harm to anyone. I don't know whose dog she kicked, but Robinson better make sure she smiles really big for the remaining 58.8% of voters who are waiting to get to know her.

NBP finds Republicans favoring Noem over Robinson 6.6 to 1, Democrats favoring Robinson over Noem by a less passionate 3.5 to 1, and Independents leaning Noem 1.1 to 1. It wouldn't hurt to change some Republican minds, but Robinson should gin her base up to the unity the GOP is showing for their gal, then get to know those Indies, who bring the biggest batch of undecideds.

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On Saturday I broke the story of Rep. Kristi Noem's repeat non-performance as she refuses to face Corinna Robinson in debate at the South Dakota State Fair.

Today, the Democratic challenger offers her response to Noem's chicken act:

I was born and raised here, and what I know is that South Dakota families and voters deserve the opportunity to see the candidates for our only congressional seat in a public forum.... For Kristi Noem to once again make herself unavailable to South Dakotans, the folks signing her paycheck, is inexcusable. It’s yet more proof that Kristi Noem has become out of touch with average South Dakota families, and why we need a change [Corinna Robinson, press release, 2014.08.04].

Dakotafest still lists our Congresswoman as facing Robinson and the voters on Tuesday, August 19, 10:00 a.m., in Mitchell.

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Kristi Noem, State Fair debate chicken

Even guys in overalls can't get Kristi Noem to debate at the State Fair.

Rep. Kristi Noem is dodging the State Fair debate again. A source says South Dakota's sole Congresswoman has declined the invitation of the South Dakota Farmers Union to appear on stage with her Democratic challenger Corinna Robinson on Friday, August 30.

Rep. Noem's chicken act repeats her 2012 debate-diss, when she refused to debate Matt Varilek. Noem claimed then that the Farmers Union was too partisan and unfair for her taste, even though other members of her party had no problem appearing at the State Fair debates. Noem did debate Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin at the 2010 State Fair, but apparently didn't like getting creamed.

If Rep. Noem claims scheduling conflicts, we should all shout bovine stool. During the busy last week of July, Rep. Noem found time to jet out to the Black Hills for a photo opp and to appear on Fox News to talk about one of her core competencies, our Ukraine policy. If she wanted to, she could find time in the long August recess to participate in a South Dakota political tradition and answer fair questions in front of her employers.

Robinson has accepted every debate invitation sent her way so far, and she and Noem are still scheduled to debate at Dakotafest in Mitchell on August 19. If Noem's political pals are still pulling the Dakotafest strings, maybe we'll see our Congresswoman for a brief moment eye to eye with her challenger. But who knows? When you think you're a princess, you make your own rules.

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