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.


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.


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?


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?


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.


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.


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.


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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