Democrat Rick Weiland and Independents Larry Pressler and Gordon Howie spent the final debate of South Dakota's U.S. Senate campaign doing what they should have been doing from Day One of their campaigns: calling Republican Mike Rounds out on his lies and corruption. Rounds offered three main responses:
- Blame Obama.
- Be a crybaby.
- Keep lying.
The first words out of Rounds's mouth were "Barack Obama," followed quickly by "South Dakota Common Sense," "D.C.... dysfunctional," and "ISIS and Ebola." His opening statement also included two blatant lies:
- "A vote for any one of my opponents is a vote for President Obama's failed policies."
- "My opponents—they think big government is the answer."
Rick Weiland would certainly be more supportive of President Obama's policies than Mike Rounds, though he stated the obvious that "I'm not Obama." Whether Weiland favors "big government" or "smart government" is a diverting rhetorical exercise. To claim that Gordon Howie and even Larry Pressler are big-government Obama liberals is laughable. Howie lit into Rounds's "misleading" claim as characteristic of the entire Rounds campaign and its willinginess to perpetuate statements that Rounds knows aren't true. Howie reminded voters that he proposed legislation to block the Affordable Care Act but that Governor Rounds killed that bill. Pressler said he has a 22-year record of voting against big government. Yet Rounds, without citing examples, kept lodging the same bogus claim against all three of his opponents.
Asked about supporting Senator Grassley's call to review the EB-5 visa investment program, Rounds completely avoided the question. He said we should review all federal programs and repeated his comments on ObamaCare and Keystone XL. Weiland said Rounds's evasion on EB-5 showed Rounds refuses to accept responsibility for what happened with EB-5 under his watch in South Dakota. He said Rounds makes up EB-5 job-creation numbers just as he makes up Keystone XL job-creation numbers and lies about Weiland wanting to kill Ellsworth Air Force Base. Gordon Howie jumped in to defend Weiland, saying Rounds knows Weiland doesn't want to kill Ellsworth. Howie then branded Rounds's EB-5 response as n example of "professional deceit." Pressler responded to Rounds's evasion by stunningly asking Rounds why he thinks Richard Benda killed himself and why the autopsy report as been sealed.
In response to that pummeling, Rounds kept evading. He gave no direct rebuttal; he only whined that his opponents were throwing "trash talk" and "innuendo" and (don't even try to restrain your laughter) "avoiding real issues." Weiland and Pressler both leapt on the question of issues. Weiland noted that Rounds spent most of the campaign avoiding debates and forums where the other candidates did talk about issues. Pressler agreed with Weiland that Rounds has skipped opportunities to talk policy and said he resents Rounds's suggestion that Pressler avoids real issues. (Pressler's resentment is justified, given that Pressler wonked out on specific legislation all night, as he has done in every debate).
Rounds's most laughable lie came in the discussion of Keystone XL. KELO loaded the question, framing it around the 60% approval rate Keystone gets from South Dakota voters and thus daring candidates to challenge the majority. Weiland boldly took the challenge, offering his bold and accurate three-point critique:
- Rounds's job numbers (inflated last night to 42,000) are bogus: Keystone XL will create 1,350 temp jobs and 35 permanent jobs.
- Keystone XL will send oil to the Gulf and overseas rather than boosting our energy independence.
- Rounds and Big Oil have lost those first two arguments, so now they're making up a new argument about pipelining Bakken oil to free rail cars for grain shipments, when that won't happen either, since the Bakken producers want to send their oil east for domestic refining and consumption, not south to the Gulf for export.
Pressler added that Rounds's KXL-Bakken-rail claim is false because the shippers can't mix Canadian tar sands oil and North Dakota crude.
Rounds responded that 10% of Keystone XL is reserved for carrying Bakken oil. How does he know this? The folks at TransCanada told him so, he said, and they wouldn't say that if it weren't true.
As Rick Weiland said during the EB-5 discussion, we just saw the real Mike Rounds. If a big corporation tells you something, it must be true.
Mike Rounds hid behind the bogeyman he makes of Barack Obama. He cried that his opponents are talking trash instead of addressing the specific questions and rebuttals they offered to his claims. And when pressed on his lies, he repeated them and told bigger lies.
Rick, Larry, Gordon, I can't tell which of you won last night. But you all three, working together, definitely beat Mike Rounds in the debate. If voters hear the messages you sent last night, you will beat Mike Rounds and his whining dodging and deceit at the polls. Which of you will win the election? Don't sweat that question. Beat Mike, and let the chips fall where they may.