Bob Mercer notes who would get the Chamber of Commerce Business Caucus vote for Governor and President. Right now, these Main Streeters' top picks are Matt Michels and Hillary Clinton.

The gubernatorial straw poll rejects the perhaps conventional view purveyed in the media that the GOP is bracing for a three-way gubernatorial contest among Attorney General Marty Jackley, District 12 Rep. Mark Mickelson, and eyelash-battingly coy Congresswoman Kristi Noem. Lt. Gov. Michels and Democrats' great white hope Stephanie Herseth Sandlin both got more straw poll votes than those three GOP contenders.

If spelling counts, the Business Caucus's misspelling of Noem's name as Kristie suggests they aren't paying as much attention to her as she might like. Only one person picked Shantel Krebs for governor, versus thirteen for Noem, but by gum, the ballot spelled Shantel's name right!

On the Presidential side, while the preference for Clinton is suprising, the Chamber predictably prefers mainstream moderates like Hillary and second-place corporatist and dynastirian Jeb Bush. The next Bush gets more votes than any two of the five wild-eyed ideologues on the Business Caucus's list—Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Rick Perry. Clinton gets more votes than all five right wingnuts together. (I invite debate as to whether we ought to include Mike Huckabee in that list.)

(Bonus liberal hope: there are three Chamber members who would vote for Elizabeth Warren and one for James Webb.)

And John Thune? He appears to have fallen into the Chamber's blind spot. They don't hint at all at Thune aspiring to anything other than the job he has right now in the U.S. Senate. (Gee, Rep. Gosch: maybe your embarrassing apology for the Daschle Rule was all for nought!)

But don't read too much into these numbers. The Business Caucus polled about 130 members. Only 84 named a favorite gubernatorial candidate; only 81 named a Presidential pick. The Business Caucus members aren't nearly as interested in elections 1.5 and 3.5 years off as they are on the issues before the Legislature right now. We'll talk about the Chamber's Legislative opinions in a separate post, coming soon!


KELO misreads its own poll on the effect of Northern Beef Packers and EB-5 on the U.S. Senate race. "EB-5 Has Little Effect on Voters," says the headline, introducing Ben Dunsmoor's dismissal of the potency of the issue. But we can easily read the actual responses to say the opposite, that the Northern Beef Packers/EB-5 scandal EB-5 has had a significant effect on how South Dakotans will vote.

"How much of an effect have the issues raised about the funding that the Northern Beef Packers Plant in Aberdeen received through the EB-5 immigration program had on your voting decision on the South Dakota Senate race? Have they had a major effect, some effect or no effect at all?"
Major Minor No Effect Not Familiar
State 21% 31% 45% 3%
Rounds Voters 9% 16% 73% 2%
Weiland Voters 41% 34% 23% 2%
Pressler Voters 19% 56% 22% 3%
Howie Voters 13% 44% 37% 6%
Undecided Voters 9% 55% 31% 5%
Men 19% 32% 48% 1%
Women 23% 30% 43% 4%
Democrats 28% 41% 28% 3%
Republicans 15% 25% 57% 3%
Independents 23% 26% 47% 4%

First, consider the question. KELO (via Mason-Dixon) asks voters whether NBP/EB-5 is affecting their voting decision. That question doesn't just measure the impact of the issue; it also measures the dedication of voters to their candidates. NBP went bankrupt and EB-5 went scandal after Rounds and Weiland started campaigning. Many voters committed to those candidates before NBP/EB-5 could have an effect on their decision. Democrats and Republicans have partisans who will stick by their party no matter what. I've written more about Northern Beef Packers and EB-5 than most reporters, but my honest response to this survey question would have been "No Effect." Even in the alternative universe where Joop Bollen didn't run NBP into the ground and Richard Benda retired quietly to a beach in the Philippines, I'd still be voting for Weiland.

Second, consider the numbers. A majority say NBP/EB-5 has some effect on their vote. In every subgroup except for Rounds voters and Republicans, more people say the issue is has some effect than say it has no effect. NBP/EB-5 matters to 75% of Weiland voters and Pressler voters. Nobody should expect one issue to resonate with every voter, but having a "major" effect on one in five voters, the vast majority of whom swing away from the favored Republican frontrunner in South Dakota, tells me that NBP and EB-5 are worth every bit of attention the Weiland and Pressler and Howie campaigns are willing to give it.

I would argue that Rounds's challengers themselves have not hit Northern Beef Packers and EB-5 as hard as they could. It's already swaying a sizable chunk of the electorate, against all the advantages Republicans have, to Weiland and Pressler. There is still time to pull some of 31% "minors" over to the 21% "majors" and use the endemic corruption exposed in the NBP/EB-5 scandal to pull Rounds's 9% lead back to the side of good, honest government.


Was all the excitement about a narrow South Dakota U.S. Senate race mere hype? The latest NBC-Marist poll says maybe. It puts Rounds back above 40%, Weiland back below 30%, and Pressler back where every bit of conventional wisdom said he ought to be, below 20%.

14 points difference. Uff da. Does this mean the DSCC, Every Voice Action, and Mayday PAC will retreat from South Dakota? Does this mean South Dakotans really think using federal programs and state boards to line one's own pockets is cool?

KELO will burp up its Mason-Dixon poll results on the Senate race and EB-5 tomorrow. Stay tuned!


That Sioux Falls paper is dribbling out a new Mason-Dixon poll that finds South Dakotans want to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The poll finds 45% in favor, 37% against. Hey, if that margin is enough to elect a U.S. Senator, it should be enough to make a policy decision.

That's a remarkable drop from a January 2014 poll, conducted by GOP pollster Glen Bolger, that found 63% of South Dakotans favoring the Medicaid expansion. Perhaps so close to an election, a large chunk of voters can't help noticing the cognitive dissonance between their thoughtful values and their ingrained, automatic, inertial reach for the "R" on the ballot, and they resolve that psychic tension by following their leaders. Sigh.

Jon Walker's report notes that fiscally, the numbers add up in Susan Wismer's favor:

Susan Wismer, the Democratic candidate for governor, said the state is leaving a fortune on the table by dragging its feet on expansion. Wismer, a state legislator from Britton, argued in a debate in August that South Dakota hospitals are losing more than $250 million a year from federal money that would flow into the health care system if Medicaid were expanded here. Daugaard said in the same debate that expansion would be a new $95 million burden on the state budget from 2017 to 2020 [Jon Walker, "Poll: More S.D. Voters Back Medicaid Expansion," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.25].

Notice that even reaching out for four years of budget impact doesn't come close to beating one year of the fiscal boost South Dakota would get from Medicaid expansion. Let Governor Daugaard have all the "No more free stuff for poor people!" voters quoted in Walker's report (one from her lofty perch at Dakota Dunes). Even the modest support shown in the Mason-Dixon poll is one more bit of evidence that South Dakotans would elect Democrats if they integrated their policy thinking into their voting.

Related Reading:

  1. The lagging Republican Senate candidate in North Carolina is U-turning his position to welcome the Medicaid expansion.
  2. The only problem with Nevada's expansion is a doctor shortage and a high percentage of already scarce doctors refusing to see Medicaid patients (because, you know, health is for the rich, kind of like how I should only teach kids whose families are big tippers).
  3. Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich still wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but not the Medicaid expansion. Kasich told AP the opposition to Medicaid expansion in the Ohio statehouse "was really either political or ideological.... I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives."
  4. In nine states that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA and where Democratic governors face strong Republican challengers, none of those GOP challengers have advocated repeal of the ACA's Medicaid expansion.

The GOP spin machine has slobberingly cited Republican pollster Glen Bolger's claim, published Tuesday, that Mike Rounds is leading Rick Weiland 48–24 in South Dakota's U.S. Senate race.

Even Mike Rounds doesn't believe that wishful result. Check out this fundraising e-mail sent by Team Rounds yesterday:

My Obama Democrat opponent has been battering me for weeks with relentless negative ads.

I understand why he focuses on me -- he simply can't defend his own positions.

Like saying Barack Obama's stifling Big Government "is not the problem." Or claiming that the ObamaCare nanny-state healthcare takeover didn't go far enough. But on the strength of so many attacks and distortions, we're now virtually tied in the race for the Senate majority...

With such unexpected tightening, the Harry Reid and company are pouring an additional one million dollars into even more media attacks here, confident they can now pick off Red State South Dakota! [Mike Rounds, fundraising e-mail, 2014.10.25]

Gacckk—let me disinfect my keyboard....

Given how bad Rounds is at math, I suppose it's possible he thinks a 2-to-1 lead is "virtually tied." Conclude what you will—just don't let Rounds or Bolger trick you out of heading to the polls with ten friends and all voting for the man whose numbers always add up, Rick Weiland!


Once upon a time—13 months ago, to be specific—a Harper poll found that Republican Mike Rounds would win the Senate race 52% to 38% over Democrat Rick Weiland. Mike Rounds had all the advantages: big money, name recognition, and that fat, juicy R in front of his name in red red South Dakota.

Mike Rounds took those advantages for granted and lost 15 of those percentage points. The latest Harper poll finds Rounds at 37%, Weiland 33%. Harper called 630 likely South Dakota voters from October 9 through October 11, riding the wave of national press that broke in Weiland's favor and Rounds's dis- last week.

Compare the Harper numbers to the Survey USA numbers that fueled the furor last week. Survey USA polled 616 likely South Dakota voters from October 1 through October 5 and found Rounds at 35%, Independent Larry Pressler at a surprising 32%, and Weiland at 28%. Assume no flukiness (and David Montgomery doesn't), note margin of error (about 4% each way), and we see Rounds hanging around his well-attested rock-bottom, Weiland climbing, and Pressler diving.

I don't think anyone hit Pressler that hard in the few days between Survey USA and Harris. It seems just as likely that we saw the first surge of the trend Public Policy Polling and others have seen coming: get closer to election, and folks toying with a Pressler vote will retreat from third-party novelty for their trusted brands. With Rounds stinking up his brand while Weiland does his proud, Weiland gets a bump that only gets bigger as the horserace narrative supplants the foregone conclusion that Republicans thought excused them from running a competent campaign.

Stuart Rothenberg moved South Dakota from "Republican Favored" to "Lean Republican" today, citing Rounds's "poor campaign and weak fundraising, as well as the candidate’s underwhelming performance on the stump." Larry Sabato made a similar move Friday, based on Rounds's "weakness."

Look at the poll numbers 13 months ago. Look at the poll numbers today.

Tell me, Republicans, how's that buyer's remorse working out for you?

p.s.: Down at the bottom, Gordon Howie scores 5% in Harper. In the cross-tabs, Howie gets 5% of the conservative vote and 5% of the liberal vote. In other words, Howie doesn't mobilize his Tea Party base any better than the margin of error he gets from liberals who should all know better.


If Larry Pressler can get mojo back, why can't Susan Wismer?

Susan Wismer has touted her gubernatorial bid as South Dakotans' chance to elect their first female governor. She doubled the female fun by naming Susy Blake as her running mate.

Yet both of the big SurveyUSA polls have shown no advantage for Wismer among the ladies. The September poll showed 55% of men and 53% of women going for Dennis Daugaard; the October poll shows Daugaard winning 58% of men and 60% of women. Ladies, why aren't you flocking to Wismer?

We can ask the same of a big chunk of Democrats. From September to October, the number of Democrats voting for Daugaard has risen from 23% to 32%. A third of my fellow travelers are voting for the Republican incumbent, the leader of the corrupt one-part regime in Pierre and part owner of the EB-5 scandal.

Fellow Democrats, fill me in. What possible reason does a Democrat have to vote for Dennis Daugaard instead of a Democratic challenger who could upset the balance of power and challenge the Legislature to create a better budget?


David Montgomery makes up for giving Dick Wadhams too much room to run on the Darley ruling by reviewing the latest SurveyUSA poll numbers and saying Mike Rounds is on the floor... of Republican support in South Dakota:

Mike Rounds is as mainstream as Republicans get. He's well-known and well-funded and a constant presence on TV. What these poll numbers should tell you, if accurate, is that Rounds is very near the floor of his support. No matter how much negative advertising gets slung at him, he's not likely to fall any further. (That's not to say negative ads won't be effective — they can keep Rounds' numbers down, and preempt any comeback.) Which means that if either Pressler or Weiland is going to win, they're going to have to reach a plurality by taking votes from each other [David Montgomery, "That SurveyUSA Poll," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.07].

Montgomery notes that Rounds's 35% is down where GOP losers Joel Dykstra, Jan Berkhout, Ron Schmidt, and Char Haar finished in their ill-fated races. Mike Rounds is almost as bad a candidate as Bruce Whalen.

Rick Weiland will have more trouble than Larry Pressler capitalizing on Montgomery's thesis that there are no more Rounds votes to flip. The hypothetical head-to-heads show a pure Rounds–Weiland tilt ties 47–47, while Pressler-Rounds goes 54–39. That result, if reliable, shows how hard it is to get a certain segment of South Dakotans to mark "D" on their ballots. (Rick! Remind them that Harry Reid hates you!)

Pressler, of course, is ecstatic:

We are humbled by the results of today’s poll, showing our message of taking the best ideas from both parties to end the poisonous deadlock between Republicans and Democrats in the US Senate is starting to resonate.... Harriet and I have been blessed by the outpouring of support of our grass roots campaign to stop the endless fighting of the two major parties. No one party has a monopoly on all the answers. South Dakotans agree with me that both parties are locked in a lobbyist-controlled spending and taxing cycle, trapped in a partisan fight while nothing gets resolved [Larry Pressler, press release, 2014.10.07].

But anyone who thinks this one set of numbers will somehow convince Weiland (or me, or any good Democrat) that he has a moral imperative to drop out of the race is mistaken. Four weeks to go, just seven points behind the failing frontrunner, Lawrence Lessig giving my campaign a million-dollar vote of confidence, and now my major battle is to knock off not Dick Wadhams but Larry Pressler? Yes, please, bring me that fight!


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