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Sioux Falls Paper Picks Varilek; Real Liberal Media Does Not

Last updated on 2013.01.06

That Sioux Falls paper is telling us to vote for Varilek. That by itself should be enough to make me vote for Barth.

As I note in my May 31 South Dakota Magazine column, I thought the Democratic primary for U.S. House was over about a month after Matt Varilek launched his candidacy. In almost no time, Varilek rolled up cash and endorsements that made Jeff Barth's campaign look like a footnote.

The past month has brought some unexpected excitement to the primary race. Varilek committed an unforced error on gay marriage, taking a weak and unpopular position that turned off key supporters. Then Barth blew up the blogosphere with his brilliant YouTube walk in the woods (163,000 views in eight days -- possibly a South Dakota YouTube record). And now Barth is throwing verbal bombs on health care that thrill health-care hawks like me and scare the SDGOP into attacking the supposed underdog in the Democratic primary.

(Double Negative Warning): The past month has not convinced me that Matt Varilek cannot do the job of beating Kristi Noem and of serving as an effective Congressman.

However, the past month has convinced me that Jeff Barth can do the job.

We South Dakota Democrats (and the Independents who choose to join us at our open polls on Tuesday) thus have the pleasure of a real primary choice between two viable candidates.

On this Friday morning, four days before the primary, I am 95% certain I will vote for Jeff Barth. He's as smart as Varilek. He has ready answers to policy questions. He speaks bluntly and fearlessly. He has useful, practical experience in government, similar to Varilek. He's traveled the world... which I might suggest beats riding horse named Lexus around Hayti as a qualification for Congress.

Does Jeff Barth have the cash and clout to beat Kristi Noem? Well, that's the literal million-dollar question. Against Noem, Jeff can't piddle around not fundraising the way he has this spring. But it's a pretty sure bet that neither Jeff nor Matt will out-fundraise the Kristi Noem-Fox News glamour machine. We must expect our Democratic nominee to operate at a perpetual cash disadvantage. In the last month, Jeff Barth has successfully auditioned for the role of underdog. He's shown he can work from an almost absurd disadvantage to create, against expectations, what looks like a competitive race.

I could be wrong. My pathologically contrarian affection for Kucinichian underdogs, salted with a little blogospheric echo-chamberitis, may be blinding me to Matt Varilek's imminent 80–20 stomping of Jeff Barth... at which point I only feel more liberated to vote for the guy who's going to get stomped. Even if Barth doesn't win, a higher-than-expected Barth tally gives Team Varilek a useful jolt to adopt the smarter, tougher campaigning they'll need to unseat Noem.

Whether we pick Barth or Varilek, we Dems are getting a good candidate. I am 95% certain I will pick Barth. I am 100% certain that I won't criticize anyone for canceling me out Tuesday by picking the other guy.

And I am 120% certain that, Wednesday morning, I will line up with all of my fellow Dems behind our smart, energetic, and qualified Democratic nominee to take the hard fight to Kristi Noem on her reckless and feckless performance in Washington.


  1. skybluesky 2012.06.01

    We all loved Barth's his video and the message of his video. To compete in this state you need a statewide campaign and the money to develop that organization. Unfortunately Barth doesn't get it. The excitement of his video will wear off and if he becomes the nominee the result will be worse than Daschle vs. Ron Schmidt - 98'. Varilek is the only candidate that stands a chance. I know your an underdog guy Corey...but if you really want a shot at beating Noem in November, Varilek is the realistic choice to make that happen.

  2. Adam Ellsworth 2012.06.01

    SHS is the only SD Democrat I've ever voted for - and would again - but the SD Republican Party is winning me back with today's press release pointing out that Varilek used to have an Obama bumper sticker on his Buick but now he doesn't.

    "Post called on both Vaikek [sic] and Jeff Barth to let South Dakotans know of they will be endorsing another four years of more debt and fewer jobs by voting for Obama."

    ...I'm assuming this is from The Onion.

  3. Mark 2012.06.01

    I disagree with your characterization that the AL "telling us to vote for Varilek" as a little over the top. (It's an endorsement, after all. Nothing more and nothing less.

    However, if SD Dems can get their act lined up, Noem might well find herself in a far more competitive race than she planned. The debates should be very interesting.

    As to Noem's "reckless and feckless" performance...

    Was that a commentary on policy or driving?

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.01

    Mark, check the SF paper's language: "For the Democrats — and Independents allowed to vote in this primary — the choice should be Varilek." My line alone shows my characterization is not over the top.

  5. SDprogressive 2012.06.01

    Despite being able to outspend Barth 7 to 1, Varilek has failed to gain any real traction. His "statewide capability" is just a hand-me-down Johnson campaign staff. He will run a conventional campaign and get defeated handily by Kristi Noem. I don't know if Barth will be able to beat Kristi Noem, but at least he has proven he can run a campaign that is outfunded. Varilek would be blowing Barth out of the water with all the advantages he has, the problem is he isn't because he is a dud as a candidate. And I agree with Barth in criticizing his campaign. Really? You are driving an old Buick? That is great, the 1980s called, they want their strategy back.

  6. Douglas Wiken 2012.06.01

    Barth needs to announce he will accept only contributions from South Dakotans and only for $100 or less. Then get off his ass and knock on a thousands of doors and make a point of talking to every weekly newspaper in SD.

    And do this now rather than months from now. Getting a person to commit to a candidate early makes it doubly hard to get an opponent to change their mind later.

    I'm sure massive TV campaigns have some effect, but I suspect both positive and negative.

  7. Carrie Ackerman-Rice 2012.06.01

    I'm going out on a limb here....I must be the only person who found Barth's youtube video offensive....If he wins the primary, we then have two candidates using terms like "hogwash" "idiots" and "assholes". It makes our State look like we're full of people who talk like we only have an 8th grade education. Good for South Dakota.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.01

    I didn't catch the A-word; was that in the video, or was that another public appearance?

  9. LK 2012.06.01

    I'm not taking the time to watch the ad again, but I remember only "horses asses."

  10. Barry Smith 2012.06.01

    I think what Barth is doing in the ad is talking to everyone. There is something in that ad for everybody. There are a lot of people in this state that can relate to the term "idiots" and "horsesasses" when they think of politicans. But there are many layers in that video that even I with my 9th grade education can pick up on. :-).

  11. Rachel 2012.06.01

    I gotta disagree with you this time, Cory. Particularly about Barth getting it done.

    I think if he did make it to DC, he would be a goof. I guess I get that vibe from the video, similar to Carrie. The whole thing is a goof. I mean, the rubber chicken made me laugh out loud, but I don't remember a convincing or new argument for his candidacy.

    In addition, I don't think his style will work long-term. I can think of no job where constantly speaking "bluntly and fearlessly" is a good thing.

    And the thing about not raising taxes pisses me off. :-)

  12. Carter 2012.06.01

    From what I've read, Rachel, he only doesn't want to raise taxes while we're in a recession. I think that's good. I'm 100% in favor of raising taxes on the wealthy, but when he says he's against raising taxes, to me it sounds like he realizes that we can't fix the economy and the deficit at the same time. If we had more congresspeople like that, maybe we wouldn't be running in place trying to spend money and save money at the same time.

  13. Mark 2012.06.01

    My recollection of the video is the same as LK's.

  14. Winston 2012.06.01

    This a race between VP Al Gore and Senator Jon Tester of Montana. Both are honorable men, but only a Tester can win statewide in SD.

  15. larry kurtz 2012.06.01

    Matt would have to lose the Buick for a Prius and Jeff would have to cut the fingers off his left hand.

  16. Taunia 2012.06.01

    Seriously? Someone's offended by the word "ass" and not about Noem's vote to cut your future off, via the Ryan Budget? Or how she got "DC lifestlyle"-like right out of the box? And so on.

    Barth could call me an ass to my face everyday if he will do his best to save Medicare, healthcare, Social Security, etc.

    If you're unhappy with him, there are plenty of states that would be happy to have him as a candidate.

  17. Winston 2012.06.01

    Unfortunately, they did not make the Prius back in '95.

  18. Fred Jay 2012.06.01

    off topic but wow is Jason Gant incompetent or what

  19. Testor15 2012.06.01

    Fred, amazingly incompetent just being Pat's Puppet.

  20. Owen Reitzel 2012.06.01

    I was torn about who to vote for. There's plus and minuses for both.
    But like Rachael I have a hard time with Barth's stand on the Bush tax cuts. Jeff its not a tax raise on the wealthy. It just puts them back to where they were.
    The bad part about the tax cuts was that they weren't paid for-thus increasing the debt.
    But Varilek has to start coming out tough and quit being timid. he can't be afraid to get down and dirty.
    The thing that either candidate will have against Noem is the truth. They'll have to get past the Republicons scare tactics.

  21. amanda 2012.06.01

    I've thought long and hard about how to comment on this particular post. I don't normally comment on blogs, so I'm going out of my own comfort zone here. I have spent a long time working in politics, and I understand how hard it is to run a campaign and deal with everything being thrown at you, which is why I have refrained until the last couple of days to make any kind of comments on this primary race. However, after listening to the chatter, I feel compelled to say something!

    I find it very disappointing that while there have been multiple posts and comments about Matt's stance on gay marriage (and rightly so) and one post on Jeff's declaration of support for a single payer health system vs. Matt's position, there have not been any posts on Jeff's opposition to letting the Bush tax cuts expire, his opposition to raising the minimum wage, or his wavering on whether the student loan interest rates doubling is a bad thing or not. (If there have been posts, please correct me, and my apologies in advance for missing them) All of these issues are issues that are important to us bleeding heart liberals, and I'm frustrated that no one is talking about those. To me, they are just as important as gay marriage, and universal healthcare.

    I, also, was taken aback by Jeff's cursing in not only his youtube video, but in multiple public appearances. I'm no prude...I can string a line of curse words together that my mother would not be proud of, but I'm not running for Congress either, and when I speak in front of a group in an official capacity, I make sure I don't cuss in front of them, even when I really, really want to. I find it absolutely disrespectful and unprofessional.

    There is a lot of talk that Matt's the "establishment" candidate, and that he hasn't had to work hard for this race, or the money he's raised. That's bull. I'm a proven donor, and I've never received a single solicitation from Jeff Barth. Matt picked up the phone and asked for my donation, and he had to work hard to get it, as I'm not independently wealthy by any means, so when I give, it is a sacrifice.

    I might not agree with Matt on everything, but I disagree with Jeff Barth on a lot more, and to me, that's what it comes down to. Not who got what endorsements, or who can whip up the media with TV ads or facebook posts. I have worked on a lot of campaigns, and have spent a lot of time on the ground in South Dakota, and Jeff Barth has not run a campaign that is capable of beating Kristi Noem in the fall. He has not worked to raise money or build a structure that will get his message out, and he has made it apparent that those things are not important to him. The most valuable resources a candidate has are money, time and people, and how a candidate uses those resources says a lot about the campaign they are running, and what kind of leader they will be. Jeff has poorly managed the resources he has. There was a significant amount of time before Matt entered the race for Jeff to build his campaign and put it on solid footing, and he didn't, and what makes anyone think he will do a better job in the general?

  22. larry kurtz 2012.06.02

    that was very brave, amanda: thank you for sharing.

  23. Barry Smith 2012.06.02

    Amanda scores points for painting her candidate in a good light. We as Democrats should be proud that we have such a choice this year . But I find her use of the term "bleeding heart liberal" to be more offensive than anything I have heard Jeff Barth say. I have always considered that term to be an epithet used as a slam against Democrats. That's just me though and only goes to show that when everyday expressions are used in communicating there are always some who will be offended .

  24. Curtis Price 2012.06.02

    Now that I know the party rules (thanks to the fine Madville Times community) I'll just say that I appreciate the information Amanda, and I too am happy that we have a choice of two viable candidates that will make for an interesting race.

    Whoever wins, they will have to be unconventional, because in a post-Citizens United world, South Dakota is a really good value for the price. I fear our next Senate race for that reason.

  25. Carter 2012.06.02

    Hey, I have an idea! Cory, you're El Capitan here. How about a post for all of us the gives us a nice compare and contrast on Barth/Varilek. I find a lot of articles discussing theirs policies on different matters, but not much in the way of a "Varilek stands here, Barth stands here" thing that's all-encompassing. You have enough journalistic integrity to do it accurately, too.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.02

    Excellent idea, Carter... but it quit raining, so I've got to mow the lawn! First candidate who drops by to rake gets my vote!

  27. D.E. Bishop 2012.06.02

    I am a Bleeding Heart Liberal. I can't imagine being anything else.

    There is something in me that automatically thinks about how a particular policy will affect people who are poor, poorly educated, disabled, outcast, etc.

    For instance: When people want to toughen SNAP rules, my first concern is certainly not the cheaters who deserve to be taken off the rolls. I think about the struggling folks who are doing their very best to stay afloat. I know rule changes will drastically affect them in a negative way, while the cheaters will simply change their method of cheating. I am not willing to go after the cheaters at the expense of the ones who truly need help.

    That is a Bleeding Heart Liberal to me. It is a good thing to be.

  28. Barry Smith 2012.06.03

    Well maybe I have been wrong in my distaste for the term " bleeding heart liberal". People always just seem to use it as a slander. Never have thought about it any other way really. Until now.

    Right now I feel kind of like an "idiot" or as my Grandfather would have said a real "horsesass" :-)

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