KELO-TV posts a fun table showing how much each GOP candidate for U.S. Senate candidate spent per vote*:

Candidate Cash Spent Votes Cash/Vote
Rounds $2,425,135 41,372 $58.62
Rhoden $89,138 13,591 $6.56
Nelson $83,451 13,178 $6.33
Bosworth $1,608,148 4,282 $375.56
Ravnsborg $43,399 2,066 $21.01

If you wanted real fiscal conservatism, you should have voted for Stace Nelson. Each vote cost him less than some lunches at McDonald's. Senator Larry Rhoden was pretty frugal, spending just a quarter more than Nelson per vote. Of course, Nelson and Rhoden may also demonstrate that too much fiscal conservatism leads to failure.

It's like gas mileage: getting 90 miles per gallon on the moped is great, until some jerk runs you over in his Hummer and gets to town before you do.

GOP nominee Mike Rounds spent nine times more per vote than either Nelson or Rhoden. For the price of one Rounds vote, Mike could have taken Stace, Larry, Jason, and Annette all to Perkins for a consolation meal.

The economists in our audience will shout something about marginal inputs, but imagine what would have happened if we could rerun the election, keep everything else the same, but put more money in either Nelson's or Rhoden's pockets. Nelson lost to Rounds by 28,194 votes. To close that gap and get one more than Rounds, Nelson would have needed to spend just $178,547.65. I say "just" with a grin, recognizing it was hard enough for Stace to raise what he did, never mind tripling that amount to beat Rounds. But with the average cost of winning a U.S. Senate seat over $10 million, $179K doesn't seem like much.

Similarly for Rhoden: he lost to Rounds by 27,781 votes (you can hear the Union Center "neener neeners!" aimed at Nelson echoing across the Plains). If his per-vote price held, he could have beaten Rounds by spending $182,211.16.

The other challengers faced a harder climb. Jason Ravnsborg needed over 39,000 votes to close the gap. At $21.01 a pop, that would have been $826,000 in additional campaign spending. And Annette? Oh my. Losing by more than 37,000 votes, at $376 each, she would have needed nearly $14 million just to catch Rounds and win the primary.

Update 2014.07.28 13:30 CDT: Here are those per-vote dollar figures, updated with the Q2 FEC reports showing operating expenditures through June 30. Rounds's figures will be a bit inflated, since the primary victor's expenditures will include money spent after the primary to promote his general election campaign.

Candidate Cash Spent Votes Cash/Vote
Rounds $2,868,392 41,372 $69.33
Rhoden $127,565 13,591 $9.39
Nelson $134,790 13,178 $10.23
Bosworth $1,885,485 4,282 $440.33
Ravnsborg $56,572 2,066 $27.38

The South Dakota primary is all done but the shouting, of which we will do plenty in the Wednesday blog cycle. To get us started, let's look at the county maps for the GOP Senate race and the Democratic gubernatorial race (no need for a map of the GOP gubernatorial primary: just picture one solid block of Daugaard red):


2014 GOP Senate Primary (click to embiggen!)

As we may have expected, Rounds dominated, winning 60 counties and 55.54% of the statewide vote. Larry Rhoden jumped to second place at 18.25%, taking four counties. Rhoden only pulled 40.91% of his home county of Meade, with Rounds at his spurs with 37.01%. Rhoden was strongest in Ziebach, where he won 53.33%

Third-place finisher Stace Nelson won 17.69% statewide. He won only two counties, but he won his home county with 70.64%.


2014 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary (click to embiggen!)

The Democratic gubernatorial primary made for a more interesting map. Susan Wismer won statewide 55.48% over Joe Lowe's 44.52% and took 44 counties to Lowe's 22. Wismer grabbed a handful of Lowe's West River neighbors, but Lowe made similar inroads into Wismer's East River territory. Lowe beat Wismer by 62 votes in Minnehaha County.

But Wismer held a better home turf advantage: in northeastern South Dakota, she beat Lowe with 70% of more of the vote. In her home county of Marshall, she took over 85%. Out West, Lowe took his home turf of Meade and Pennington with much smaller majorities (54.6% and 53.6%, respectively). Despite more work as state fire chief on the reservations, Lowe still split Indian Country with Wismer. Lowe's best finish came in Tripp County, where Wismer still broke 40 and held Lowe to 58.85%.

You can dig into the statewide race data yourself on the Secretary of State's website. Stay tuned for more anlysis of these results as well as the Legislative primaries!


I like dramatic elections. Alas, The Displaced Plainsman anticipates no drama in Tuesday's GOP Senate primary. Neither does Bob Mercer, who has upped his estimate of frontrunner Marion Michael Rounds's vote count from 50% to 60%, based on May campaigning:

Rounds’ campaign stepped up its efforts tremendously with its blitz of signs, its well-done newspaper stuffers and the candidate’s busy schedule of appearances at grassroots events.

Meanwhile the other four didn’t seem to pick up steam. They resorted to holding and/or attending news conference-style events trying to draw wider attention [Bob Mercer, "Will Mike Rounds Break 60 Percent?" Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.05.31].

I hate to play into a sense of inevitability, but the Rounds money machine appears to be coasting to victory. Rounds has avoided debates and eased up on the fundraising gas while managing not to get mired in any of the very valid critiques his opponents could be making about his record of corruption, laziness, and failure as governor.

But hey, in case any of you Republicans are still thinking about changing your vote, let me re-don my Republican hat and offer the best reasons I can think of for Republicans to vote for each of the four legitimate U.S. Senate candidates on their ballot Tuesday:

Mike Rounds:

  1. No one will bring more money, polish, and name recognition to the campaign.
  2. Rounds has no policy vision, but Republicans don't want policy vision. Republicans hire a candidate to occupy the seat and keep Democrats out. Rounds will go to Washington, cast his desultory votes, and get right back to fundraising for the next election.
  3. While the end of earmarks has made it harder for Senators to send home pork, Rounds has demonstrated the least philosophical compunction against big federal government spending to benefit South Dakota. His lack of commitment to the Republican slogans he campaigns on, buttered with his insurance-salesman charm, give South Dakota the best shot at drawing funds for the Lewis and Clark water pipeline and other porky projects.

Stace Nelson:

  1. Nelson means what he says and says what he means more than anyone else on the GOP ballot.
  2. If you're a Tea Party Republican, Nelson is absolutely your only choice. No other GOP candidate has espoused the principles of hard right conservative Republicanism, appeared at more South Dakota Tea Party events, and more openly embraced the language of the Tea Party movement.
  3. If anyone has a chance of bucking crony capitalism in Washington, it's Nelson.
  4. Speaking of crony capitalism, if the EB-5 investigations break open before November 4, Republicans will need cover. Nelson has spoken most forthrightly against EB-5. Nelson sponsored legislation to get South Dakota out of EB-5.
  5. Joining Nelson with John Thune would give South Dakota the tallest Senate duo in the country.
  6. Nelson's size and style would get South Dakota more national press than even Kristi Noem.

Larry Rhoden:

  1. Of the challengers, Rhoden is the most experienced legislator, with a greater record of crafting, negotiating, and passing bills.
  2. Joining Rhoden with Thune would give South Dakota the handsomest Senate duo in the country.
  3. On pure image, Rhoden best affirms South Dakota's agricultural mythos, in which we all deep down crave to be from West River.

Jason Ravnsborg:

  1. On the campaign trail, Ravnsborg has done a good job of peppering his responses with specific policies, showing a focus on reversing the impression that the GOP is the "Party of No" and thus offering more appeal to voters interested in solving problems rather than playing partisan politics.
  2. Ravnsborg will draw the least attention, the least excitement, and the least financial support of the four candidates you have to choose from. If you're playing SDGOP chess and don't like Mike Rounds, this isn't a bad thing. You use Ravnsborg to send Rounds home. You elevate him to Senator, let him muddle about for six years doing no harm, and keep him out of the way of the 2018 round of musical chairs, when you'll have a whole bench of characters wrestling for governor, attorney general, and other posts that you wouldn't want Ravnsborg messing with. And then in 2020, you can promote a GOP all-star to that Senate seat by primarying Ravnsborg out. (Yes, I had to stretch for that one, because even with my Republican hat on, I have a hard time thinking of why any Republican gets excited about Ravnsborg.)

Ugh. I feel dirty.

I know my probing of the Republican mindset won't have much impact on Tuesday's primary. But Republicans, don't say I didn't try to help.

Bonus Prediction: Trying very hard to weed out wishful thinking, I check my gut, glance at the 2010 GOP primary results, and divine the following outcome:

  1. Rounds: 55% (better than Daugaard 2010, but not much better)
  2. Nelson: 25% (wins all of Howie's voters, plus boost from only effective challenger's ground game)
  3. Rhoden: 10% (barely carries Meade County)
  4. Ravnsborg: 6% (more margin of error and "don't like the other guys" than active support)
  5. other/spoilage: 4%

Oh, you crazy readers! The latest Madville Times polls asked you to vote for your favorites in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, the Republican Senate primary, and the Republican gubernatorial primary. I asked the questions in that order, and I present the answers in that order... which I also believe reflects the ascending order of unlikelihood:

Democrats for Governor:

  1. Joe Lowe: 73% (165 votes)
  2. Susan Wismer: 27% (62)

Republicans for Senate:

  1. Larry Rhoden: 46% (179)
  2. Stace Nelson: 35% (135)
  3. Mike Rounds: 8% (30)
  4. Jason Ravnsborg: 7% (29)
  5. Annette Bosworth: 4% (14)

Republicans for Governor:

  1. Lora Hubbel: 63% (210)
  2. Dennis Daugaard: 37% (125)

Lowe, Rhoden, and Hubbel—we do love the underdogs here (which shows I'm reaching my intended audience). How do we explain these results (other than saying, "It's a blog! Har de har har!)?

Lowe is the least under of the dogs. Against Susan Wismer's inherent advantage as an experienced party establishment candidate, he has mounted a vigorous and credible statewide campaign with smart advisors and straight talk. He wins an advantage here perhaps in part because we haven't heard much in response from Wismer, who only started campaigning in earnest after tax season ended.

----------Update 08:50 MDT: Lowe's Black Hills neighbor John Tsitrian contends that Lowe should beat Wismer on specifity over reticence.--------------

Rhoden again showed he has a lot of followers online willing to turn out and click his name when offered the opportunity, even on a liberal website. Recall that in December, Rhoden finished second behind Nelson among readers here. Rhoden actually pulled the same number of votes this time, but fewer folks showed up to click for Nelson. Remember that Rhoden and this blog share connections to Madison, so that Madison audience could be turning out big for the West River rancher (watch for Lake County to be an island of western turquoise for Rhoden amidst a electoral checkerboard of Nelson red and Rounds blue on June 3).

Rounds is clueless about the Internet, so we wouldn't expect them to show up in representative numbers here. Rounds is still the favorite. Nelson has made the hardest pitch for the anti-Rounds vote, assembling what appears to be the largest grassroots campaign and the strongest visibility of anyone not named Mike. But South Dakotans have a timid streak, and Nelson makes enough people mad that, if they are looking for a Rounds alternative, they might default to the safe, clean, and manly Rhoden.

And then there's Lora Hubbel. Readers may have turned out strong for Hubbel in part because she has been willing to share her views on a variety of issues with this blog, despite the fact that I've swung the Tea-Party-crazy club at her. She's shown that even amidst our disagreement, we can find common ground on important issues... and I get the impression that's as important to you, dear readers, as it is to me.

I doubt, alas, that that goodwill has gotten out much beyond these pages and various Tea Party meetings. Hubbel doesn't have as large of a ground game as Dennis Daugaard. Hubbel will win a protest vote from Republicans who get a bad taste in their mouths from the Rounds-Daugaard administration's GOED/EB-5 errors. She'll get votes from two thirds of the folks who vote for Nelson. But a strong majority will still nominate Daugaard.

Thank you, dear readers, for casting your votes! As always, I invite your interpretation of the results. Now don't forget to vote in the real primary June 3!


So maybe this explains the Rhoden surge in the Madville Times primary poll?

Rep. Stace Nelson loses focus in the final push for a primary upset. While his sole target should be frontrunner Mike Rounds, he slips into taking potshots at fellow military man and electoral non-threat Jason Ravnsborg:

...He also went after Jason Ravnsborg, specifically over their tiff on relevant military service, calling him ‘ignorant,’ and oddly belittling him as just “a truck driver in Iraq,” because “they have a TV show about NCIS, I don’t think they have got a TV Show about being a reservist as a truck driver in Iraq or Afghanistan yet” [Pat Powers, "When Nelson... Torched the Republican Party...," Dakota War College, 2014.05.20].

We've had this conversation. Taking cheap shots at any soldier's service profits no one. Whether you're investigating crimes, driving trucks, slinging hash, or leading prayers, your willingness to do so under the orders of the military is respectable service and sacrifice. Like any other work, it may or may not make you a better U.S. Senator, but splitting hairs over the relative merits of such sacrifice and service is, at the very least, a waste of time.

It also torques PNR off:

Nelson is not only dead wrong on the specifics, his statements in this regard are an affront to the proud traditions of discipline, teamwork, and devotion that mark the United States Marine Corps. He should be ashamed of himself. If he were capable of shame and remorse, he would withdraw such statements and apologize for them, not least to the widows and mothers of those truckers who died to bring supplies to my Marines and never gave a damn about showing up in stupid television shows. This pissing contest has gone on long enough ["Stace Nelson Should Be Ashamed," P&R Miscellany, 2014.05.21].

Ravnsborg hurt himself by making his snarky attack on Nelson's service. Nelson makes the same error by letting himself be drawn into a conversation more suited to two soldiers who've had one too many at the bar than two candidates who ought to be talking about nothing other than how awesome they personally are and how East-Coast-rotten Mike Rounds is. Nelson and Ravnsborg could end up playing Kirby and Barnett, allowing cowboy-clean Larry Rhoden to round up the sane and attentive anti-Rounds vote.

The only good to come out of Nelson's error is the opportunity for The Displaced Plainsman to make the first B.J. and the Bear reference of the 2014 primary... and perhaps of any South Dakota primary ever. Now that's a worthwhile distraction!


Bob Mercer will back away from this point as soon as I mention it, but hey: reporter Bob Mercer and Representative Stace Nelson seem to agree that Mike Rounds has no intention of repealing the Affordable Care Act:

But tell me this: Why don’t you want to increase the number of people covered by health insurance?

Obamacare should be a godsend to South Dakota insurance businesses.

Our Legislature passed a state law last year requiring that Obamacare policies purchased by South Dakotans must be obtained through a South Dakota insurance producer.

Two of the key lobbyists in that 2013 effort are working on the U.S. Senate campaign of former Gov. Mike Rounds, who runs an insurance and real estate business [Bob Mercer, "Republicans Feel Safe Battering Obamacare," Rapid City Journal, 2014.05.18].

The lobbyists-cum-Rounds campaigners to whom Mercer refers are Rob Skjonsberg and Jason Glodt. The law in question was enacted via 2013 SB 139. And remember, just to complicate things, Rounds opponents Stace Nelson and Larry Rhoden both voted for 2013 SB 139. Nelson and Rhoden helped create a rule that protects Rounds's profit margins under the ACA. The implication from Mercer is that Rounds, a good businessman, would want the ACA to stay in effect as long as possible so he doesn't have to change his business model or the state statutes that favor it.

Mercer also seems to agree with Independent Senate candidate Larry Pressler that we won't repeal the Affordable Care Act no matter whom we elect Senator:

It seems mathematically unlikely that Congress would repeal Obamacare during the next two years while President Obama is still in office.

Opponents of Obamacare would need two-thirds majorities in both the Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives to override a presidential veto [Mercer, 2014.05.18].

As Mercer notes, all this talk of repealing ObamaCare is just vote-getting rhetoric. Rounds won't want to repeal it. Nelson and Rhoden won't be able to repeal it. They're just trying to score fear points.


I don't blog enough about David Montgomery's work now that that Sioux Falls paper has tucked him away behind the firewall. (Curious: is it still a blog if you have to pay to read it?)

On Thursday, Mr. Montgomery published a really interesting graph based on empirical data estimating the ideology of most of our U.S. Senate candidates:

Senate 2014 Candidates Ideology by Bonica campaign finance method

(click to embiggen!)

Stanford poli-sci prof Adam Bonica estimates ideology for rookie candidates with no voting records by analyzing patterns in campaign finance. He looks at all the people who have donated to Candidate X. He then looks at who those donors have supported in previous elections. He looks at voting records for those previous candidates, then applies those scores to the new candidate those mutual donors are supporting. Gordon Howie and Jason Ravnsborg does not appear on this graph because they have not filed any campaign finance report with the FEC (Gordon just got on the ballot last week, but Ravnsborg announced in December; how's he getting by without filing?).

If we accept Bonica's methodology (and he looks at more data more objectively than I've ever seen in one of Stace Nelson's scorecards), we see several blogworthy results:

  1. Rick Weiland would be more liberal than the man he would replace, Senator Tim Johnson.
  2. Erstwhile Republican Larry Pressler's data from 1996 place him closer to the center than any of the Republicans running for Senate in South Dakota today. The growing wisdom of his years has likely pulled him even further toward the center.
  3. Larry Rhoden and Stace Nelson are clearly more conservative than Marion Michael Rounds. They're even more conservative than Ted Cruz!
  4. Annette Bosworth is the most liberal Republican on the ballot.

All of these results fit what any one of us South Dakota observers might have plotted on an ideological line based on what we already know about the candidates, with the exception that I would have refused to place Bosworth on that line, since she has no real political ideology, just a narcissistic craving for fame and fortune.

I am surprised, however, to find Bonica's campaign finance analysis places Bosworth to the left of the right. I'd have expected the poor suckers targeted by her Base Connect direct-mail scheme to be more hard-core Tea Partiers, the kind who are so rabid in their conservatism that they would Pavlovianly foam at Bosworth's cynical pastiche of memes.

Maybe real Tea Partiers aren't as dumb as I think. Maybe the truest, reddest conservatives, like the folks supporting Nelson and Rhoden, aren't big check writers. Maybe those conservatives are up on their Googles enough to search "Annette Bosworth," see that very first image of Annette in her Che t-shirt, and realize Bosworth is scamming them. Maybe Base Connect has made its money by compiling a list not of eager and engaged conservatives, but of inattentive, vulnerable donors with no deep political convictions and an alarming lack of skepticism and restraint in how they spend their money.

That hypothesis, if true, would only further confirm the profile of Annette Bosworth and her husband Chad Haber as unprincipled predators of the vulnerable.


Joel Ebert of the Pierre Capital Journal maps itemized campaign contributions to South Dakota's U.S. Senate candidates. The map only includes data from the 2013 year-end filing, but it's still a fun click.

Ebert also lists the top ten South Dakota cities for Senate campaign cash as of December 31:

  1. Sioux Falls: $210,845
  2. Rapid City: $92,702
  3. Pierre: $61,638
  4. North Sioux City: $27,150
  5. Watertown: $26,485
  6. Aberdeen: $23,518
  7. Sturgis: $20,687
  8. Brookings: $19,165
  9. Huron: $18,950
  10. Fulton: $16,386

The fine folks of Fulton can thank their hometown guy Stace Nelson for vaulting them into the ranks of big-money politics. Larry Rhoden's neighbors put Sturgis on the money map.

North Sioux City makes fourth place thanks to lots of Dan Lederman's friends giving Mike Rounds money. All but one of the 2013 donations from the Sioux City tax-dodgers' suburb went to Team Rounds. The only North Sioux City money that went to any Senate candidate other than Rounds was $500 that liquid fertilizer honcho Dirk Lohry gave to Annette Bosworth on November 5, 2013. But Lederman pal Lohry also gave Team Rounds $100 on March 8, $1000 on April 5, and $500 on June 12...

...which further supports the theory that Rounds supporters want Annette Bosworth on the ballot to divide the anti-Rounds vote and protect their crony's chances of winning the primary.


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