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NBP: Majority Back Daugaard, Don’t Recognize Wismer

Last updated on 2014.08.05

Northern Plains News rolls out the latest results of an extensive Nielson Brothers Polling survey of South Dakota. In South Dakota's gubernatorial race, Democratic Rep. Susan Wismer faces a daunting climb to have a shot at unseating Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard:

Wismer's 24-point chasm, nearly double the gap Democratic Senate candidate Rick Weiland must close on Republican frontrunner Mike Rounds, is predictable. Wismer announced her candidacy in January and didn't really start working publicly hard on her campaign until mid-April. Weiland announced his candidacy in May 2013 and has been campaigning at full steam since last summer.

Adding to the lack of mathematical surprise is the fact that Wismer has just one Independent candidate, Mike Myers, to help divide her opponent's votes, and so far, the Myers constituency remains small (6.8% in NBP's survey) and undefined. Weiland has two former Republicans helping mix up his challenge to Rounds: Gordon Howie, who pulls feebly but almost exclusively from Republican voters, and Larry Pressler, who is currently pulling a few more Dems than Republicans.

Wismer's late start leaves her with remarkably weak name recognition. A majority of voters, 51.1%, told NBP they hadn't heard of Wismer. Rick Weiland had similar "Rick who?" numbers a couple months into his campaign, but he has worked for a year to tear that number down to a manageable 22%. Wismer could have compensated for the time disadvantage by leveraging her primary battle with Joe Lowe for more press, but apparently, no such advantage materialized... or maybe it did and simply brought the "Susan who" number down to 51.1% from 80%.

Whatever Wismer does in the next month to boost her name recognition, it needs to be really good. Whatever she's done to get name recognition in the past has turned off more voters than it has turned on. 20.6% of voters say they have an unfavorable impression of Wismer; 17.1% view her favorably. Wismer thus faces the unenviable task of flipping her unfavorables and winning new recognition.

The scary thing is that even if Wismer rectifies her name recognition and favorables, and even if she can drink all of Myers's milkshake and cast a spell on all the undecideds, she's still down six points from Daugaard's absolute majority.

Forget an October surprise; Wismer needs an August surprise! Nothing fancy, nothing diabolical or scandalous (although if you have pictures of Dennis Daugaard drinking mai-tais with Richard Benda in Makati, do send them my way!), just a grinding, non-stop bombardment of every parade, door, mailbox, county fair, newspaper, and blog with policy statements, solid and snappy critiques of the Daugaard administration, and pitches for campaign cash.


  1. Roger Cornelius 2014.08.04

    Susan had a good op-ed piece in the Rapid City Journal today attacking Rounds, Daugaard, and GOAC over their stonewalling the EB-5 scandal.
    This is just one of tactics Susan must use and use often. Republicans don't want to acknowledge or even talk about their scandal, Susan must force the issue and make them talk about and ask questions.
    Just as important, Susan needs to present how she plans to stop this crony corruption in Pierre. What will she do to bring true transparency to the state's citizens?

  2. grudznick 2014.08.04

    Young Ms. Wismer might consider discovering her confidence by joining the Skyline toastmasters. They meet early enough you can still get a good seat for breakfast at most of your favorite greasy spoons.

  3. Tim 2014.08.04

    I am surprised the Journal printed that, what a great article, that is what Susan needs to do. Republicans own everything that happens in this state and all of our candidates need to bring it all out.

  4. Douglas Wiken 2014.08.04

    Why did she run for the nomination if she won't campaign?

  5. grudznick 2014.08.04

    Confused principles, Mr. Wiken. Confused principles, and the free foot massages candidates all get in Sioux Falls.

  6. Ken Santema 2014.08.04

    A good first step for her to increase name recognition would be to drop the 'Susan for SD' and actually work on building Wismer as a brand.

  7. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.08.04

    I'm with Doug. It doesn't appear that she's really interested in the job.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.05

    Ken, I have to agree on the logo. At first, I thought that new logo was just a nice welcoming tip of the hat to her running mate... but yeah, when half of the electorate still doesn't know your name, you have to put that last name out there, big and bold. It makes no sense to continue to put "Blake" on the logo and not "Wismer".

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.05

    That said, I agree wholeheartedly that the content of her August 4 RCJ op-ed needs to figure prominently in every appearance she makes this month. She sums up GOED/EB-5 for voters just starting to pay attention quite effectively: "...most of the wealthy foreign investors got their EB-5 visas, and former Rounds-Daugaard employees made millions administering the program for the state. But now a man is dead, a beef packing plant is bankrupt, South Dakota taxpayers have lost millions of dollars from a Rounds-Daugaard administration program, and the Republicans on this committee refuse to ask questions."

  10. Tara Volesky 2014.08.05

    I was so impressed with the "RIGHT SIDE" blog or what the some people on this site call, Tea baggers, earth haters, foil tin hats, right wing crazies, who posted the op-ed, with no negative comments on Susan. They are showing that we need to put issues and the people above party affiliation, and not worry about who gets the credit. Congratulations Right Side and Susan for exposing corruption.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.05

    Agreed, Tara. It is important that we look beyond labels (without overlooking real policy differences) and find common ground in rooting out corruption and ensuring good government.

  12. jerry 2014.08.05

    There is a lady in Kentucky who is running against the Minority Leader of the Senate that is kicking his butt with the same message of corruption and doing nothing for the state. Mitch has been in Washington for 30 years, coincidentally, 30 years is about how long the corrupt cabal has been screwing South Dakotans with impunity. It works when it is the truth and here in South Dakota, we see it, smell it and know it. Wismer needs to stay that course and make Daguaard responsible for his actions along with his predecessor for that matter. Two birds with one EB-5 stone. Wismer needs to tell South Dakotans that there is a new sheriff in town, her name is Susan Wismer and she needs to do that pronto and with vigor.

  13. Steve Sibson 2014.08.05

    "Just as important, Susan needs to present how she plans to stop this crony corruption in Pierre."

    I really like Tara's and Cory's agreement that we need to work together in order to confront the system of legal corruption in Pierre. With that done, we then need to deal with "the plan". Will expanding the government which is in control of the SDGOP Establishment the right plan? Look at the power the SDGOP Establishment gained thanks to the Obama stimulus monies.

    Is the correct plan a return to the limited government policies which means a reduction in the size and scope of government?

  14. Tara Volesky 2014.08.05

    Yup Larry, the Media, voters and Legislature are just as guilty as the corrupt cronies. Until they come forward and support Wismer and Myers for fighting the corrupt machine, these campaigns are going to have a hard time gaining traction. Hopefully people will tune into the debates. Our Congressional delegation needs to be called out on the EB-5, are they for subpoenaing, Rounds, Daugaard, Bollin, the GOED, and the dozens of investors that lost millions or made millions. It's time to quit using Benda as the scape-goat.

  15. Kal Lis 2014.08.05

    Larry's link is something Wismer needs to hammer as well as EB-5. Daugaard's failed education and jobs policies are having a negative impact on nearly every South Dakota community.

    When one is the metaphoric David,one needs to have 5 smooth stones: EB-5 and lack of transparency, education, medicaid expansion, the assault on Native American voting rights, and the fact that the state's wages especially relative to a cost of living that's not as low as advertised all need to be part of Wismer's story.

  16. Steve Sibson 2014.08.05

    "5 smooth stones: EB-5 and lack of transparency, education, medicaid expansion, the assault on Native American voting rights, and the fact that the state's wages especially relative to a cost of living that's not as low as advertised all need to be part of Wismer's story."

    That is a losing plan Kal. It is the plan that has been used by Democrats in the past.

  17. Steve Sibson 2014.08.05

    From Wismer's Op-Ed:

    "EB-5 is just one of the many symptoms of a bigger problem – years of one-party rule in our state government. We need balance, transparency, and accountability in Pierre."

    With all due respect, playing partisan politics is not a good way to attract independents.

  18. larry kurtz 2014.08.05

    The Wadhams machine knows that vitriolic campaigns drive much of the electorate out of the process leaving the same old, white GOP voters who don't read blogs to select a straight ticket.

    Even if DD or Rounds are implicated or indicted by the feds for their roles in Bendagate expect them to still do well in November.

    Susan has the fire in the belly, she is methodical, competent and confident: let her find her stride.

  19. Kal Lis 2014.08.05


    Nearly everyone who posts on Madville agrees that lack of transparency/cronyism/partisan isolation/corruption is a problem that needs to be addressed.

    Yesterday, Larry posted a link that Native Americans pushed Johnson over Thune. I'll take that history. The teacher shortage has never been this bad nor has it affected larger population centers. Daugaard owns it.

    The limited government folk you think Wismer can attract will never put an X in the box next to a Democrat. They'll mark the R or stay home because they are as partisan as anyone else.

  20. Roger Cornelius 2014.08.05

    Perhaps transparency is being overused in talking about South Dakota Republican corruption.
    Apparently the state legislature lacks any form of ethics boards or committees with any power behind it. For instance, when GOAC fails to respond to Wismer, she would be able to go to an ethics board and explain their actions as unethical.
    It is appalling that GOAC alone can put a stop to an investigation and continue their stonewalling without any repercussions. The legislature has no checks and balances and the minority have no voice.
    Susan has an opportunity to lead, she can gather our few Democrats in state house and senate and be formidable voice and challenge the governor and legislature at every turn.
    Do it now Susan, place that call to Democratic legislators and continue to expose Rounds, Daugaard, Jackley, et al.

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.05

    If talking about the specific policies with which the Rounds-Daugaard administrations have damaged South Dakota is not the way to win elections, then I don't want to campaign. We have to talk about real problems, identify real causes, and propose real solutions, not just wallow in abstractions while we pick who looks nicer in a checked shirt and cowboy boots.

    Kal Lis's five smooth stones are the bedrocks of the best campaign that every Democrat in the state could run right now. Have this conversation, Democrats!

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.05

    Jerry, I hope Wismer can adopt and execute that Kentucky model.

    In that spirit, I offer to sharpen Kal Lis's five stones with five solutions:

    1. EB-5 and lack of transparency: drop EB-5.

    2. Education: moonshot program to make SD teacher pay 34th in the nation

    3. Medicaid expansion: Just Do It!

    4. Assault on Native American voting rights: Just Stop It!

    5. State's wages, especially relative to a cost of living, not as low as advertised: stop the b.s., publish accurate figures, and condition state economic development grants on above-average wages.

  23. Steve Sibson 2014.08.05

    "They'll mark the R or stay home because they are as partisan as anyone else."

    Yes they will Kal, as long as they are called racists, accused of hating women, and are lumped in with the crony capitalists. And as long as the huge increase in government school funding is considered never enough.

  24. advocate 2014.08.05

    Look -- Susan is capable and her experience on the Appropriations Committee means she has had a front row seat to the corrupt budgeting process that guides every legislative session but the worry I had during the Dem primary is the same worry now -- where's the charisma? The op-ed is definitely a start but those numbers are almost impossible to come back from. Imagine if Stephanie had run with this message...

  25. Steve Sibson 2014.08.05

    "Perhaps transparency is being overused in talking about South Dakota Republican corruption."

    Roger, when that issue was brought forward by the Democratic legislature, the crony capitalist said that "trade secrets" could not be exposed during the process where economic development boards determined winners and losers. So the Democrats took the SDGOP offer that allowed some of them to be on the board, and also bought them off with more money for education.

    The Democrats did not step up to the plate in 2008 when the system of legal corruption was being dismantled with Initiated Measure 10. Instead they followed the lead of the National Education Association who threw a million dollars at the crony capitalists of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce to protect the system of legal corruption in Pierre. For those reasons, I see no solution that will work coming out of the big government Democrats. If you guys want something done with crony capitalism, then stop with the partisan crap and look for principled arguments that will resonate with the majority of South Dakota voters, not just the far-left of the Democrat Party. There is not enough of you and you don't have enough money.

  26. larry kurtz 2014.08.05

    except when the 'partisan crap' works to your advantage, sib.

  27. Kal Lis 2014.08.05


    Just so I can get a concrete handle on what you're advocating, name a candidate for statewide office who's won doing it your way.

  28. Steve Sibson 2014.08.05

    "name a candidate for statewide office who's won doing it your way"

    Kal, yes I know, we have a lot of work to do. Now, may I return the question. How well have the Democrats done lately with the far-left arguments?

    Us conservatives and you Democrats have something in common: neither of us are popular with those who control the money.

  29. Roger Cornelius 2014.08.05

    Why do Republicans continually lie about how they hate big government while at the same time under Republican rule South Dakota's government has continued to grow. Are you actually suggesting that the legislature not have an ethics board with expanded powers is growing government.
    As to your suggestions that President Obama's stimulus was responsible for South Dakota Republican corruption, they were corrupt long before President Obama was around.
    My point is this, if we are able to get corrupt politicians and their cronies out of office, what is the plan to prevent further corruption?
    We simply have to stop this system of replacing one corrupt politician with another.

  30. Kal Lis 2014.08.05


    You do realize that what you call "far-left" is what the rest of the country calls mainstream and most of the civilized world calls conservative?

    I will agree with you that most of the big money folk who contribute to South Dakota races support the status quo.

    Cory grades himself out to be around 60% Libertarian. That number is, I think, rather important. I expect that most excluded by the current folk in power will have around 55%-60% they can agree on.

    Voters, however, rank issues by importance. Few are willing to give up one important issue they disagree with the other side about to get the 60% they agree on.

    On that point, most surveys and academic studies show that Dems are more willing to compromise to get something done than those further to the right. To be fair, those studies are about policy proposals I'm not sure if anyone has done a study on voting patterns.

    So, I'll ask the question this way, how many could your side get to the polls to get 60% of what you wanted if the candidate opposed one of your key issues? For a concrete example, let's say background checks. If not that, what's a major issue your corner of the political spectrum is willing to give up in order to get 60%?

    (That example is a hypothetical, I don't want to go down a gun control rabbit hole.)

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