Press "Enter" to skip to content

Campaign Finance Analysis Confirms Weiland Liberal, Nelson & Rhoden Most Conservative

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.


  1. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.11

    Cory, Are you trying to start a new word? I think that is the second time I have seen you use the word embiggen, when you meant enlarge. ha ha.

    You wrote, "I am surprised, however, to find Bonica's campaign finance analysis places Bosworth to the left of the right." And then added more about tea party types.

    I certainly never had that impression from the list of folks that she says have contributed. I figured it was little old ladies and men who are religious types who would normally give to the bible thumping, Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons of the world.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.11

    Lanny, I would have thought that the Tea Party language of Bosworth's mailings ("overreaching government... abortion... ObamaCare..." and all the Facebook memes) would have targeted the most conservative donors out there. But yes, there appears to be some deviation in political persuasion, some misalignment between the religiously gullible and the verifiably orthodox conservatives.

    Arguably, the Bonica-Montgomery analysis has embiggened my understanding of the conservative demographic.

  3. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.11

    Well Cory, Looks like you are going to embiggen my vocabulary, whether I like it or not. It will be embiggeningly nice to have an embiggened vocabulary.

  4. gad2357 2014.05.11

    origin of "embiggen" see this.

  5. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.11

    Thank Cory, You have embiggened my understanding of the word embiggen. You have also embiggened my vocabulary and hopefully my email inbox will be embiggened with a lot of emails today so that I will have a chance to use my newest vocabulary word, embiggen, many times in replies to those emails.

  6. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.11

    Whoops, I mean thanks gad2357

  7. Roger Cornelius 2014.05.11

    Is Montgomery's blog really a blog if you can't comment? Seems like it would be more of an editorial.

  8. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.11

    You can comment Roger. You need to look across the top of the article and there will be a place toward the right that says comment. Click there and it will bring up the comment box.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2014.05.11

    Thanks Lanny, I checked it out and does work when you have temporary access to political smoke out.

    In today's RCJ there is an article on Bill Napoli and a bunch of conservatives that call themselves "The Wingnuts" If you can imagine, they don't think the GOP and the tea party are conservative enough.

    It seems as though these groups are arguing over who is the most conservative and are going so far to the right they are going talk themselves off our flat earth.

    After the June 3rd primary, it will be interesting to see if they will be able to unite.

  10. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.05.11

    What scares me Roger, is that the country has already moved so far to the right that if the Republican party implodes from all of its recent disfunction, with types out there of which you speak, we may end up with fascism yet.

  11. TG 2014.05.11

    Interesting stuff. Confirms what most of us knew all along. Rhoden is very conservative but not so much that he can't compromise. That's exactly where I'd want a candidate to be (since I'm Republican). It also confirms the claims that Rhoden and Rounds have identical records are false. Not that they'll stop repeating it over and over though...

    For those couple that think Rhoden is a RINO, I wonder what this makes Cruz. A RINO+? I'm sure he'd be surprised to find out he's a RINO. :-)

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.12

    Lanny, I'll still take a GOP implosion. I want to believe the wingnuts would do less crony capitalism. Putting radical right wingers at the helm of the GOP or in charge of whatever new party would emerge from the wreckage would help as Dems make the case that their plans really are radical and bad for America.

    TG is working hard to read the data as a "just right" for Rhoden. The graph does show that Rhoden is more conservative than Rounds... but it also shows that Rhoden is closer to Rounds than to Nelson. For those looking for strong Tea, the data show Nelson is still the best choice. The question is how many GOP primary voters take their Tea with compromise cream... and how many will vote for Rhoden instead of Rounds. Curious: are Rhoden and Nelson pulling anyone out of the Rounds camp?

  13. TG 2014.05.12

    The good new for me anyway is that I'm not looking for Tea. That's just too far right for me in SD. I'm very conservative but not to the point where I can't compromise. Too much of anything or too far is not good in my opinion. We're a country of left, right and middle. If we want to get anywhere as a country, we have to work with all.

  14. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.05.12

    Then South Dakota needs a lot more Weiland and Johnson, and the blogosphere needs more Heidelberger!

  15. Nick Nemec 2014.05.12

    TG, I'm glad to hear you are pro-compromise. Will you please tell that to Thune, Noem, and Rounds. The Republicans in Congress have refused to compromise and insist on tilting at windmills. Aren't 50+ failed attempts to repeal the ACA enough? Maybe honest attempts to correct problems with the ACA will actually stand a chance of passing.

  16. lesliengland 2014.05.12

    it seems congressional repub strategy is to create supportable voting records and nothing more. passing a bill isn't the point.

Comments are closed.