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.


The blogosphere works best when we all talk to each other, openly, civilly, and rationally, to build our understanding of an issue. This weekend's example: John Tsitrian and I have a blog conversation that helps us understand that, on the Affordable Care Act, Marion Michael Rounds is South Dakota's Willard Mitt Romney.

On Friday, Tsitrian deemed our frontrunning, big-money GOP U.S. Senate candidate the winner of the Republican candidates' debate held on SDPB Thursday night. Tsitrian felt none of the underdogs said anything really new to distinguish themselves and damage the Rounds campaign. Tsitrian questioned charge leveled on Rounds by Rep. Stace Nelson:

To the charge that Rounds was complicit in developing Obamacare because he had worked on a panel studying healthcare reform with then Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, Rounds claimed that he had "never worked with Daschle" on Obamacare. I'm not sure this can be verified, but that's probably irrelevant as there was no follow-up in the debate, which effectively neutralized the the charge [John Tsitrian, "Re: Last Night's GOP Senate Debate. It Was An Exercise In Redundancy, Rounds Wins By Default," The Constant Commoner, 2014.05.16].

Nelson launched this attack at 57:40 in the debate, with the Daschle collaboration claim at 58:10. Rounds categorically denied collaboration with Daschle on ObamaCare at 59:05. Nelson rebutted this claim at 1:02:55, urging viewers to Google Rapid City Journal, Mike Rounds, Tom Daschle, task force for documentation. Within two minutes, KELO-AM's Greg Belfrage Tweeted the result of said search, Kevin Woster's February 11, 2011, Rapid City Journal article that said what Nelson said: Rounds worked with Daschle on a task force whose primary purpose, in Daschle's words, was "to explore how states can move forward in providing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act."

I blogged this documentation and the press release Nelson wrapped around it yesterday morning. Tsitrian read that post. Yesterday afternoon, he reassessed Nelson's attack, saying Rounds's collaboration with Daschle to implement the Affordable Care Act is a "major" point "considering that the Rounds campaign says the candidate 'couldn't sleep' over the Affordable Care Act":

Now that Rounds has been exposed as being complicit in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act that he publicly deplores--to the point that in one of his videos he trots out his own dad as an audio-visual aid in order to emotionally empower his antagonism toward ACA--I trust that he has made the appropriate explanations and apologies to his family. (And please, Mr. Rounds, don't tell me to leave your family out of this. You're the one that brought them in.) Next step would be to explain to voters that he was for Obamacare before he was against it, then hope that his standing in the campaign might merit a bit of the respect that it just lost [John Tsitrian, "Will Mike Rounds Ever Get It Right When It Comes To The Affordable Care Act? You Can Run From Obamacare, Mr. Rounds, But You Can't Hide," The Constant Commoner, 2014.05.17].

Tsitrian says Mike Rounds lied Thursday night. He says the only honorable way out for Rounds is to admit he lied and admit he was for the ACA before he was against it.

Rounds now sounds like Mitt Romney, who was for the ACA's health insurance mandate before he needed to be against it to run for President against Barack Obama. RomneyCare is ObamaCare, a fact that hobbled Romney's credibility as a conservative. Jim DeMint, one of the national conservatives who said last year he was on the hunt for an alternative to Rounds, said that Romney's inability to consistently attack the ACA hurt Republicans in 2012. The RomneyCare–ObamaCare connection still dogs Romney's pal Scott Brown, who voted for RomneyCare in the Massachusetts legislature but now is campaigning against ObamaCare in his run for New Hampshire's Senate seat.

Nelson seems to grasp the Mike Rounds–Mitt Romney analogy. He's hammered on Rounds's support for the ACA from the beginning of his campaign. Thursday night he mentioned Rounds's personal airplane, a clear nod toward the "rich and out of touch" characterization that Romney admits hurt his campaign.

Of course, for Nelson to capitalize on the Rounds–Romney analogy, he's got to get that message out to every Republican primary voter. He has two weeks to do so. If he can afford another TV ad, he needs to hammer that point home. The bare storyboard:

  1. Unflattering photo of Mitt: "Remember this guy? He was for ObamaCare before he was against it. He lost in 2012."
  2. Photo of Rounds with Obama: "Now this guy says he's losing sleep over ObamaCare, even though he helped Barack Obama and Tom Daschle implement it."
  3. Montage of studly images of Stace Nelson: "Don't let another fake conservative hand victory to Democrats. Vote for a real conservative who's opposed ObamaCare from Day 1. Vote for Stace Nelson."

Short of TV ads, Nelson needs to win on the ground game. His people need to knock on 500 Republican doors an hour, 12 hours a day, every day from now until June 3, telling people exactly this message: Rounds was for ObamaCare before he was against it. Rounds is Romney, and Romney means ruin. If moderate Republican John Tsitrian can see the impact of that message, so can half the folks Team Nelson would contact. Out of 90,000 voters contacted, that Romney message alone could win 45,000 votes. And 45,000 votes could be a majority in the GOP primary vote.


Rick Weiland and Stace Nelson are clearly in cahoots. The Democratic candidate for Senate issued a press release yesterday saying GOP primary frontrunner Mike Rounds is lying about the Affordable Care Act. Shortly thereafter, Rounds's primary challenger Nelson issued a press release saying that Mike Rounds is lying about the Affordable Care Act.

Of course, Weiland and Nelson come at it from completely different angles. Weiland offers the blatantly obvious and widely reported facts that the ACA is not reducing any care that senior citizens receive under Medicare, contrary to the fear-mongering of Rounds's sleepless Grampa Don ad. It also points out that Rounds's Republican pals are the ones pointing the carving knives at Medicare. Weiland's assault on Rounds's fiction has a broader audience: it appeals to supporters and beneficiaries of the law while educating folks in the middle and even opponents about the cynical falsehoods Rounds is telling about the largely successful ACA.

Nelson digs deeper for a different crowd. In a message aimed strictly at the conservative base he needs to show up on June 3, Nelson paints Rounds as a facilitator of the Affordable Care Act. He puts Rounds in the room with President Barack Obama and Tom Daschle talking health care reform. Most importantly, Nelson follows up on a claim he made that Rounds worked with a task force whose specific purpose was to implement ObamaCare. Rounds responded that the task force claim was "flat-out incorrect." "Tom Daschle and I have never served on a joint committee to implement ObamaCare," Rounds said in Thursday night's debate.

Nelson rebutted just a few minutes later that viewer could fact-check Rounds's claim by pointing viewers to a February 11, 2011, Rapid City Journal which shows that, once again, Rounds is lying via semantics:

Rounds said Friday that he has joined a task force affiliated with the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., where former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle has been a co-leader in health care reform work since 2008.

...Daschle said Friday that he welcomes Rounds to a bipartisan effort he considers crucial to health care reform.

"It is the only way this will ever work," Daschle said of. "Our primary purpose is to explore how states can move forward in providing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. I am delighted to be working with Gov. Rounds on this" [Kevin Woster, "Former Gov. Rounds Joins Health Insurance Task Force," Rapid City Journal, 2011.02.11].

I invite Mr. Rounds to square his flat-out denial in the debate with his and Mr. Daschle's statements to Mr. Woster in February 2011.

Below is Team Nelson's full press release, complete with hyperlinks to the supporting documents.


Stace Nelson calls out Rounds for dishonesty on Obamacare

Fulton, SD—South Dakota State Representative and US Senate Candidate Stace Nelson called out fellow candidate Mike Rounds for being dishonest in claiming that he opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” The Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2010, is often considered the President's signature piece of legislation.

Nelson listed a number of reasons why he felt this way:

“Mike Rounds brought Obamacare to South Dakota.

He met with President Obama in June of 2009 regarding how to push Obama's health reform agenda. In the press conference that followed, the President remarked 'I want to thank [Governor Rounds] publicly. And I look forward to working with [him] to get [health care reform] done for the American people and for the people of [South Dakota] in the weeks to come.'

Rounds opposed the Health Care Freedom Act in the 2010 legislative session in Pierre and sent his own chief of staff, (Neil Fulton, Rounds' personal representative), to lobby against it when it came up for a committee hearing in Pierre.

In 2011, shortly before leaving office, the Rounds Administration pre-filed Senate Bills 43 and 38, which helped implement Obamacare in South Dakota.

His administration applied to the federal government and received millions of dollars in grants to implement Obamacare here in South Dakota.

Shortly after leaving office in early 2011, former Governor Rounds joined a task force with former Senator Tom Daschle, Obama's first choice to head the Health and Human Services Department, to find compromise solutions on how to implement Obamacare. Daschle expressed his pleasure in working with Rounds toward this goal.

Although he claims he sued the federal government, the Attorney General of South Dakota, a separate constitutional office, actually did that.”

As part of the effort to set the record straight, the Stace Nelson for US Senate campaign will be airing a 60-second radio ad statewide, as well as advertising through other media [Rep. Stace Nelson, press release, 2014.05.16].

Even if Rounds survives the primary, he won't escape this fire from the Right. Independent Senate candidate Gordon Howie will surely pick up right where Stace Nelson leaves off and run these same charges, casting doubt on Rounds's dedication to blocking and reversing the Affordable Care Act. Those Nelson-Howie charges will appeal to a much smaller segment of voters than Weiland's assault on Rounds's fear-mongering, but those charges do damage that Weiland never could.

As Larry might put it, Enterprise and Excelsior at Khitomer. Boom, boom, boom, Left and Right!


On a question about the ability and willingness to compromise and get things done in Washington, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Stace Nelson said he's running to represent every South Dakotan of every party. He spoke of serving with dedicated Democrats as "a privilege and an honor." He then leveled this criticism at his own party and the man standing to his left:

SN Turn SDPB 20140515We have to be honest: our country is in trouble with 17 trillion dollars in debt and we can't blame that on the Democrats. That occurred because go-along-to-get-along bought and paid for career politicians went to DC and sold themselves out for about *** nine million dollars of special interest moneys to get there. And they work for the lobbyists. They went along with all that pork-barrel spending, and they increased our national debt and just made a mess out of things in D.C. [Rep. Stace Nelson, GOP U.S. Senate primary debate, SDPB TV, 2014.05.15, timestamp 1:06:52].

See those three asterisks? At that point, Nelson paused, turned to Mike Rounds, curled his lip just a little bit, then delivered the nine-million-dollar line. He didn't raise his voice. I couldn't have coached that gesture better myself. The stagecraft of that moment was Reaganesque.

Nelson went on to cite Democrats as character references for his ability to work with others in Congress:

SN Head SDPB 20140515"I promise you, if you send me to D.C., I will serve each and every last South Dakotan. I don't care if they're Democrat, Independent, Republican, Constitutionalist, or Libertarian. I will go to D.C. and I will break my heart trying to find the right solutions for America. And I won't play these petty partisan games. And if you doubt me on that, I would ask you to talk to my Democratic colleagues in the South Dakota Legislature. They will tell you that I am the most conservative legislator in the South Dakota Legislature. But they will tell you that I am an honest, principled person and that I will support good legislation when I can as strongly as if it was my own, because I work for you, and those Democrats work for you, and I will work with them in D.C. to try to find the right solutions for America [Nelson, SDPB debate, timestamp 1:07:19].

And how did Mike Rounds respond to that appeal to bipartisanship and the criticism of his big money from special interests?

MR Head SDPB 20140515The dysfunction in Washington D.C.? You've seen some of it right here tonight. Folks, you have to be able to play well with other people. You have to be able to work with them, agree to disagree sometimes and still come out, find ways to compromise on other issues [Mike Rounds, SDPB debate, 1:08:29].

Mike Rounds, bullcrap. Stace Nelson's criticism of your own campaign finance goals and strategy is not an example of D.C. dysfunction; it's an attempt to diagnose and address dysfunction. Your response seems to reinforce what Nelson says: you will go along to get along. You'll poo-poo those who take bold stands as "not team players." And you won't bring any new ideas to Washington, or the ideas and interests of the regular folks back home from all sides of the aisle who don't put thousands of dollars in your pocket.

On this question alone, Rounds sounds like the purveyor of politics as usual, while Nelson sounds like the candidate who will speak truth to money and power on behalf of all Republicans and all South Dakotans.


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.


Jason Ravnsborg's latest campaign video claims that he is the "ONLY U.S. Senate candidate with relevant military experience." Ravnsborg drove supplies around combat zones and now does intel as an Army Reservist. Fellow Republican candidate Rep. Stace Nelson chased and prosecuted criminals and taught fellow soldiers how to shoot. Independent Larry Pressler served two tours of combat duty in Vietnam.

Each soldier had very different experiences in very different places and different decades. Ravnsborg's claim can only mean that recent work in logistics in Iraq and Afghanistan and intel in Minneapolis can inform a United States Senator's policymaking decisions but that law enforcement in Japan in 1990s and combat in Vietnam in the 1960s cannot.

The simplest reading of Ravnsborg's ad is that he's just being a jerk, either lying about or insulting fellow veterans as a desperate attempt to win votes. But let's be generous. Let's assume that Ravnsborg was actually mustering the brainpower to pose useful civic questions: Does military service better qualify a citizen to serve in elected office? If so, does some military service make one a better candidate than other military service?

Veteran and conservative blogger P&R Miscellany says no to the former question. He says he has more "chest candy" from his combat service than either Jason Ravnsborg or Stace Nelson:

So, on the basis of military service as described by both Ravnsborg and Nelson, I have perhaps better qualifications to be senator than either.

The patent absurdity of that statement should tell you all you need to know about using one's military service as a basis for choosing among candidates ["Military Service Does Not Qualify One for Elective Office," P&R Miscellany, 2014.05.09].

Military service does not certify than any veteran is smarter, braver, or more patriotic than any other citizen. Soldiers do important, difficult work for their country, but so do firefighters, police, doctors, teachers, ranchers, construction workers, database programmers, and moms. In any profession, the military included, we can find a share of dweebs, hotheads, scammers, simpletons, and sociopaths who shouldn't be trusted with taxpayer dollars. And in any profession, we can find a share of honest neighbors who can listen to their fellow citizens, explain policy clearly, and make good decisions.

Soldier versus civilian, supply truck driver versus MP versus combat infantry—do those distinctions tell voters anything useful at the ballot box?


Jason Ravnsborg offers a new campaign ad that misfires on every cylinder possible:

The first half of the ad plays the gloomy, minor-key music of doom usually reserved to play over grainy black-and-white images of one's opponents. The martial Marvel Studios superhero-fight drums kick in halfway through, but the ad still ends on the grim strains.

The voiceover is a standard anonymous movie-trailer baritone, not a South Dakotan we know (at least he doesn't sound French), and not the candidate himself. It's a positive ad talking all about Ravnsborg's quals, but the voice sounds more like what we hear when a candidate wants to badmouth other candidates but not have it in his own voice.

The voiceover opens intoning that "you've probably been hearing about Jason Ravnsborg." This is a specious marketing ploy, creating the false impression that there's all sorts of buzz about the last-place candidate. It says to the 90% of viewers who respond to the name with puzzlement, "What? You haven't heard of Jason Ravnsborg? All the cool kids have; what's your problem?"

The voiceover calls Ravnsborg "the fresh face." "The" is inaccurate; Annette Bosworth and Clayton Walker are at least as politically fresh-faced as Ravnsborg. "Fresh face" is Bosworthian code for "I have no experience, so I need some adjectives to make that sound like a good thing."

The voiceover repeats text on the screen, which is a sure sign of PowerPoint-itis, the disorder that leads millions of Americans to think that the proper use of visual aids is to treat your video like a giant notecard with the text of your speech. It also signals that the candidate can't afford to hire an ad team to shoot quality video of real South Dakotans, so instead you just make a PowerPoint with still photos and random digital transitions.

The voiceover says Ravnsborg is "uniquely qualified." "Uniquely" seems a gross overstretch when comparing oneself to people who have campaigned and fundraised before, who have served as legislators and governor, and who have been involved in local and state politics prior to this Senate campaign.

The ad shouts that Ravnsborg is the "ONLY attorney running for the U.S. Senate seat" (all caps in original). Ravnsborg emphasizes a professional credential that makes four out of five voters cringe. Oops.

The biggest cheese grater in Ravnsborg ad is this insulting lie:

Jason Ravnsborg is the ONLY U.S. Senate candidate with relevant military experience.

Now let's be clear: I'm not terribly fond of all the military chest-thumping that inserts itself into our politics. Saying, "I'm a soldier and you're not" does not automatically lead to the conclusion that "I'm a better candidate/patriot/human being than you." Good patriots serve their country in many ways without ever touching a uniform or a gun. Elevating soldiers to a special class instills a martial spirit that can be unhealthy for a peaceful nation. Dulce et decorum est....

But if a candidate is going to claim military service as a résumé booster, then he has to allow every candidate with that experience to stake that claim. Ravnsborg is an Army Reservist with experience in transportation and intelligence. Ravnsborg's opponent Rep. Stace Nelson served in the Marines as a military policeman and criminal investigator. Ravnsborg has a Bronze Star. Nelson has busted-up legs and back from getting run over by a criminal he was trying to apprehend. Both are soldiers. Both get to play the military card.

We can argue about whether either man's military experiences would make him a better Senator. But if Jason is going to put up pictures of his medal and his uniform and say, "I'm a soldier, yaaay!" he doesn't get to say, "My opponent's a solider, boooo!" or, worse, as this ad does, "That Marine over there wasn't really a soldier." That tactic is inconsistency at best, and an insulting lie at the worst.

Ravnsborg's ad fails on many levels. It is cheap and unsuccessful marketing based on sleight-of-mouth rebranding of a thin résumé and a mendacious insult to a fellow veteran.


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.


Support Your Local Blogger!

  • Click the Tip Jar to send your donation to the Madville Times via PayPal, and support local alternative news and commentary!

South Dakota Political Blogs

Greater SD Blogosphere

SD Mostly Political Mix

Greater SD Blogosphere

Madville Monthly