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Larry Pressler’s Roadmap for Winning Elections in South Dakota: Be Liberal

Larry Pressler, liberal!
Larry Pressler thinks a lot of you are liberals.

How you read this post depends on how you read Larry Pressler. So ask yourself right now: who is Larry Pressler? Smart and experienced politician? Confused old man? Sad media hound on one last ego trip? Recovering Republican doing penance for his party's evils? Don Quixote?

Whatever motivated Pressler to run for U.S. Senate as an Independent, Pressler is making a rather bold statement about political strategy in South Dakota. He is saying that if you want to win an uphill battle against a Republican frontrunner, you run as a liberal (or progressive, or Warren Democrat—pick your label).

Let's look at some of the positions Pressler has staked out:

  1. August 1 press release: Pressler reiterates his support for background checks on gun purchases. Pressler says background checks are the conservative position, because they "will help to preserve the gun rights of hunters and others who wish to have guns." But he's trying to pull conservatives away from the NRA to a liberal policy.
  2. July 30 press release: Pressler advocates immediately raising the federal fuel tax 12 cents per gallon (that's a 65% increase for gasoline, 49% for diesel). Pressler roots this proposal in pay-as-you-go fiscal conservatism, but the typical voter will read raising taxes as a liberal position. And it is, because liberals believe in raising taxes not for the sake of raising taxes but to fund necessary investments in public goods and services. That's exactly how Pressler positions it, saying we have to fix our "crumbling" transportation infrastructure.
  3. July 28 press release: Pressler supports Udall Amendment to reverse Citizens United and limit political campaign contributions.
  4. July 17 press release: Pressler calls for building an Indigenous Holocaust Museum at Wounded Knee as historically appropriate and economically beneficial for our Indian neighbors.

Add in Pressler's support for marriage equality and his unapologetic endorsement of Tim Johnson and Barack Obama, and you have a candidate fitting himself to a liberal profile.

That's a bold statement for a South Dakota candidate. It's the statement Rick Weiland appears to be making to South Dakota Democrats with his own calls for campaign finance reform, marriage equality, and Medicare as a public option. It's the statement I've been urging Democrats to make instead of surrendering to the GOP narrative and portraying themselves as GOP Lite.

If Pressler is making rational decisions about how to win an election, his liberal positioning tells us where he thinks voters could be. Then again, Pressler may still be wearing his professor's beret and running not to win but to educate the electorate as to where they should be.

Or I could be entirely wrong: Pressler may just be a Rounds plant, working to divide the opposition's votes and ensure an easy Republican victory. But who would believe a conspiracy theory like that?


  1. larry kurtz 2014.08.03

    Wadhams has certainly been worth his weight in pink slime this cycle: brilliant really.

  2. Tim 2014.08.03

    "Or I could be entirely wrong: Pressler may just be a Rounds plant, working to divide the opposition's votes and ensure an easy Republican victory. But who would believe a conspiracy theory like that?"

    I believe that is exactly what he is doing, he thinks Weiland's message is one that SD voters will get behind, and is concerned Rounds is in trouble. If EB-5 explodes Rounds may very well be in trouble, hence the republican committee smackdown Rep. Wismer got the other day.

  3. larry kurtz 2014.08.03

    It's crazy-making watching South Dakota's MSM drooling over interviews with don Juan Thune while ignoring Senator Johnson's recent Native languages success.

    On 100eyes the other day Montgomery, Eliis, and that weird little bald guy were ruing the lack of an effective Democratic spokesman and what they perceived as a total Dem blackout after the election as they diddle away at the minutiae that pays their bills.

    Stupid state.

  4. larry kurtz 2014.08.03

    In stark contrast to South Dakota's lack of an effective MSM watchdog, other papers, like the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Lincoln Journal-Star, Grand Forks Herald, the Missoulian, Boulder's Daily Camera, eg. pound their politicians relentlessly. Bill Janklow's idea of public broadcasting can't do it, commercial teevee won't do it: no outlet has the balls to take on SDGOP, except Cory and a few other bloggers.

  5. Tim 2014.08.03

    I hear people say it's all dems fault we have single party rule here, to a certain point it is, but the lack of a proper watchdog willing to report to people exactly what republicans in Pierre are doing is also a good bit of the problem, along with republican installed state rules that also make it difficult to get what they are doing.

  6. mike from iowa 2014.08.03

    A lack of Democrats forced the wingnuts into corruption mode because-? I think that is certifiably untrue because everyone knows that wingnuts are crooked before they take office and Dems have the decency to wait to become corrupted.

  7. Donald Pay 2014.08.03

    The docility of SD main stream media is nothing new. Ask anyone dealing with issues from the Oahe Project onward. There's a long history there, and it includes firing journalists who report too much on an issue, or academics who put out information contrary to the vested interests. Generally, the SD media serve business interests, because that's where the ad money comes from. Pretty simple.

    That's not to say there aren't great journalists. There really are top notch people out there. And some controversial stories will get covered. But it's usually late in the day, and not as thorough as it could be. Partly, it's that journalists are spread too thinly. And it's rare that a paper takes the initiative to investigate an issue without it being spoon fed to them.

    Most SD Democrats get elected by being progressive, and by being an alternative media of sorts, but also being a part of the community. It starts at the local level, and in a large part of the state there just aren't very many Democrats out there starting at the bottom.

  8. Tim 2014.08.03

    Yea, always had a problem with "forced", enabled would be a better word for that phrase.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2014.08.03

    Let's flush Larry out and see if he is a Rounds plant.

    Larry needs to be asked specifically about Rounds/Daugaard involvement in GOED/EB-5. What does Larry think about Benda's murder?

  10. 96 Tears 2014.08.03

    I agree. Put Larry to the test and get direct answers to direct questions. Is he for real, or another shill candidate for Rounds?

    Pressler is doing nothing to earn a win. He isn't raising serious money. He isn't working the trail, going town to town to town like Weiland. He is making a minimum effort, except for the blizzard of press releases which was his technique back in the day. The silly thing is the MSM is printing them as if by remote control.

  11. Tara Volesky 2014.08.03

    How about interviewing Larry Pressler, and like Roger said, ask him about the EB-5 scandal and Benda death.

  12. Bob Klein 2014.08.04

    I took an automated call from an outfit who used the name "Nielsen." I'm not confident that it was Nielsen Brothers Polling, or just something similar.
    They were apparently working for Pressler. After I told them I was a Republican voting for Weiland, they asked several questions similar to "if you knew that only one of the candidates had volunteered to join the military and serve in Vietnam, would that change your opinion." Each question was apparently designed to regurgitate the Pressler talking points. The call came from 605-496-0911.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.04

    Interesting, Bob! Nielson Brothers Polling has a new poll out; they called between July 23 and 28. The Vietnam question sounds more like message testing than straight-up polling.

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