Independent candidate for governor Mike Myers is trying to take a bite out of Susan Wismer's chunk of the electorate by buying ad space on this blog (thanks again, Mike!). Now it looks like he's aiming his fork at Dennis Daugaard's pie by picking conservative Republican Lora Hubbel as his new running mate. Hubbel replaces Caitlin Collier, who joined Team Myers in January but is withdrawing due to family health issues that are nobody's business but her own.
Let us proceed with the unproven assumption that the choice of a running mate can affect the outcome of an election. Caitlyn Collier is a smart liberal lady, the kind who could make a good case to Democrats like me for crossing the ticket and voting for an Independent governor. Hubbel is hard-right conservative. She graced me with a polite, open, and wide-ranging conversation during the primary, I like her as a person, and I sympathize with her when she speaks about the personal attacks her own sanctimonious party has launched against her. But 99% of Democrats whom Collier might have drawn will immediately raise the Wismer flag when offered Hubbel for Lieutenant Governor. (That's nothing personal from my end, Lora; that's just how the electorate will respond.)
The prime Democrats whom Myers might target—the 44.5% who, like me, voted for Joe Lowe in the primary—wanted a Democratic candidate who would fight for the Democratic brand. They wanted firmer principles and fire in the hole. At worst, Hubbel drives off those Democratic voters. At best, Myers wins a fraction of those fight-loving, less-partisan Democrats with his own fearless cantanker (isn't he part Irish like Lowe?), regardless of whether Hubbel, Collier, or a turtle runs with him.
From the other direction, Hubbel appeals to a cranky Tea Party set among whom Collier probably would not have gained much traction. But the primary revealed that that subset of Republicans cranky enough with Governor Daugaard and the direction of the Republican Party to vote against the party mainstream constitutes less than 20% of the eager Republican electorate... and thus probably an even smaller percentage of Republicans who would show up for the general election. Those hubba-hubba-Hubbelites probably split half and half between folks who would have stayed home and folks who would have held their noses and voted for Daugaard/Michels.
In the middle, Hubbel might hit a sweet spot with some Indies who think Myers and Hubbel bring a nice man-woman, moderate-conservative balance that neither partisan pairing offers. She'll win as many Indies as she loses with her strong ideological positions against the Affordable Care Act and Common Core.
So if, if, if running mates matter, Hubbel guarantees a lower Democratic share for Myers than he would have gained with Collier. She brings a few Republicans, but not enough to offset the Democrats she loses. Among Indies, she exercises a splitting effect easily confounded with the effect Myers himself exerts.
I do look forward to having Hubbel back on the campaign trail, because now, like Gordon Howie, she has a chance to use an Independent candidacy to step out of her ideological bubble and seek common ground with Center and Left voters. Howie hasn't been doing a very good job of that aisle-crossing, but Howie has Larry Pressler to help him achieve his goal of drinking Mike Rounds's milkshake. Myers is interested in winning, not just tweaking Daugaard. Hubbel will have to help by proving me wrong, finding her inner moderate, and talking to her left.
Bonus Fun: In a good opening pitch, Hubbel says that Secretary of State Jason Gant is bullying the Myers campaign by not allowing him to officially change his running mate. Myers and campaign manager Tara Volesky say they may take Gant to federal court to force him to accept the ticket change.