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:
We 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:
"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?
The 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.