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:
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:
- Rick Weiland would be more liberal than the man he would replace, Senator Tim Johnson.
- 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.
- Larry Rhoden and Stace Nelson are clearly more conservative than Marion Michael Rounds. They're even more conservative than Ted Cruz!
- 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.