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Mercer and Ellis Agree: Rounds Wins on Luck, Not Skill

Bob Mercer advances the wild theory that the huge outside Democratic and progressive investment in Rick Weiland will destroy Larry Pressler and guarantee a Mike Rounds win. But Mercer acknowledges that Rounds won't win on his own merits; he says the dumb luck that made him the "accidental governor" could make him the "accidental senator."

Jonathan Ellis rides in to support the latter portion of Mercer's thesis, saying Rounds has run an awful campaign:

Rounds reassembled a campaign team from his days as governor. The team was adequate for a governor’s race. The problem is, nobody outside of South Dakota cares who is governor of the state. Senate races are fought on an entirely different level — the difference between high school football and pro football. GOP leaders were concerned that Rounds and his team didn’t grasp this reality. As it turns out, justifiably so [Jonathan Ellis, "Why It's a Close Race for Senate," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.11].

Exhibit #1 of Team Rounds's incompetence is the fact that they are in a statistical dead heat with Larry Pressler. Exhibit #2 is their inability to effectively rebut the EB-5 attacks that they have known since last November would be coming. Exhibit #3 is the money they've thrown away with corny capitalist ad firm Lawrence & Schiller on ads that make Rounds sound like a crybaby:

Consider Rounds’ television ads: Through June, the campaign had paid the advertising firm Lawrence & Schiller $1.3 million for a campaign that at best was unremarkable and at worst tone deaf to the realities of the race. Rounds has invoked his father — his father! — in one ad to deflect criticism of his handling of the EB-5 immigrant investor program. Seriously, it’s come down to, “My daddy is going to beat up your daddy,” in a U.S. Senate race [Ellis, 2014.10.11].

Ellis agrees with Mercer that "Rounds owes his political career to luck."

Campaigns are auditions for public service. Campaigns are a chance to demonstrate the skills to organize, manage, persuade, spend wisely, and respond quickly to changing situations. Mike Rounds, in this campaign as well as throughout his legacyless governorship, has demonstrated he has no such skills. He just cruises along, flashing his smile, letting cronies get rich, and hoping his luck holds.

Mike Rounds was an awful governor. He is an awful candidate. He would be an awful Senator. Rewarding Mike's incompetence with a Senate seat would be as immoral as rewarding Joop Bollen's corruption with a no-bid contract.


  1. SDBlue 2014.10.12

    Pressler and Weiland appeared on MSNBC's Up With Steve Kornacki this morning. I thought Weiland did a great job. His answers were concise, honest and he is not afraid to say where he stands on issues. Pressler looked uncomfortable and defensive. I get the impression that sometimes he doesn't remember which side of an issue he supports. Rounds was invited to speak as well. Once again, he was a no show. Personally, I think this race is between Pressler and Weiland and Weiland is going to win. All we have to do is vote.

  2. Slynn 2014.10.12

    I believe I wrote on this blog awhile back that I thought the contest would be between Pressler and Weiland.

    Both Weiland and Pressler will undergo withering attacks in the next few weeks, but Rounds' EB-5 collapse will continue because the truth is not on his side.

    Weiland would win easily if Pressler wasn't constantly changing his position on key issues. When he gets pinned down, he says changes his position. He has said different things on KXL, Social Security and Roe v Wade. He is counting on the selective listening of the voters. I don't think this will work, ultimately, and believe Weiland will win by 5 points.

  3. Donald Pay 2014.10.12

    Luck. That's a pretty complex subject. Certainly you aren't referring to equally improbable outcomes in a stochastic environment. The fact that Rounds was able to thread his run for Governor through far more combative and well-heeled competitors had nothing to do with luck. It had to do with positioning his candidacy in a way that made him an attractive choice in that environment. That takes political skill.

    The problem is that Rounds won the race, and then had to govern. That's when his "luck" changed. He made some big, big mistakes. And those mistakes caught up with him. That often doesn't happen to politicians in South Dakota with its lap-dog press. Rounds is facing a novel situation in South Dakota--a Republican politician being held accountable for his mistakes. That's a common situation in national politics, so it stands to reason the national operatives would be able to finesse crooked behavior better than state operatives, who generally have a compliant press to work over.

  4. Rorschach 2014.10.12

    Rounds has run a very poor campaign and personally spent most of it schmoozing the out-of-state money people and otherwise hiding in his bunker. But he still may win.

    Weiland has run a very good campaign, and is now running a very good ad saying who he is and what he's about. But he's in 3rd place. But he still may win.

    Pressler is the independent a lot of people want. He's run a pretty good campaign on a shoestring budget, but people are going to be reminded about all the reasons we didn't like him when we sent him packing 18 years ago. His positions are different now, but is he just angling for a cushy retirement job that keeps him in DC where he really wants to be? He still may win.

    I still want to know how much money Rounds made from his decision to privatize the SD Regional Center and to pay the Joopster to take all of those millions in commissions away from the taxpayers. That to me is the only rationale for the state giving up all of the money - if somebody got paid on the side. How much did the Joopster and his associates pay Rounds and/or Rounds's businesses and/or his family members? The press ought to ask this question.

  5. Winston 2014.10.12

    There is one major problem with Mercer and Ellis's thesis. The initial ad from the DSCC is only attacking Rounds and not Pressler; which adds fuel to the fire that the DSCC may drop Weiland about 10 days before the election in favor of Pressler, in order to hold onto the Senate… That is, if the negative ads against Rounds do not directly help Weiland.

    You don't buy this?... check out the following two pieces to support my assertion:

    (Chuck Todd video in the middle of this web page) (FF 16:00)

    (last paragraph of this blog piece)

    The only way Weiland can win this, now that he is polling a strong third, is if he can help to bring Rounds's numbers down, which might temporarily benefit Pressler, but then Weiland would then need to attack Pressler as not really being a friend of the left to regain those Democrats he has lost to Pressler (Weiland needs to get back to the mid to high 30s like where he was before Pressler showed up); but the second half of this strategy will never happen if the DSCC decides that Pressler is then unstoppable and a safer bet than Weiland.

    Last night, I saw two of the first new ads from the Rounds Team and the DSCC. The DSCC went negative only on Rounds and Team Rounds suggested that Pressler and Weiland are one in the same. So what do these end-up doing? They potentially further weaken a failing Rounds and legitimatize Pressler with the left. This current negative ad strategy by two of the camps will only help Pressler; and it is truly a cautious strategy by the DSCC which protects their potential longterm alternative strategy as the two cites above suggest.

  6. Jane 2014.10.12

    It's sad when candidates get votes based on party position instead of earning it. It's also sad when we are blinded by party position and not able to decern right from wrong.
    Rounds does not debate the issues, nor address honestly to the public. he seems to avoid open debates yet he accuses his opponents of avoiding the issues. In the Bible we are warned of false prophets, I appreciate that verse at times like this. I don't want to judge others. Yet I fear people who avoid truth and honesty.

  7. JoeBoo 2014.10.12

    The DSCC is advertising against Rounds because it makes the most sense. Make Rounds toxic, then make the voters decide. Traditionally 3rd party candidates numbers peak in early October and then fall, if Rounds is toxic they go to Weiland. If they go to Pressler, well then so be it.

    Rounds, has run a terrible campaign, I won't go out to say it was luck that made him Governor, but if Barnett or Kirby wouldn't have run, he would have gotten trounced in a 2 way election that year.

    Rounds goes negative, but the ads look like something from the 1980's. His ads are bad, his public appearances aren't good. He looks angry and entitled most of the time.

  8. lesliengland 2014.10.12

    NBC's Meet the Press' Chuck Todd, and Rachel Maddow, MSNBC spend 18 mins. Thurs night(10.09) denigrating Larry Pressler's "out-of it-ism" (DC mayor candidate, presidential candidate, "comes-out" of closet after 15 mins. during senate hearing waving goodbye).

    Todd directly highlights EB-5, Benda's suicide, and Rounds' crash in the polls. (no word on joop's stolen Regent EB-5 files).

    This is extraodinary coverage of SDGOP failure and should have an effect on our election and the national race for senate control. Winston's thoughts elsewhere query a sinister harry reid pull-out at the end for pressler. free tourism publicity.

    In addition, msnbc compadres Kornackie & Schultz started the party with earlier Pressler and Weiland interviews and trip to SD.

    Daugaard's cover for Rounds, joop, and Regents is a profound failure of leadership, not using AG Jackly's formidable law enforcement investigatory power, protecting the good 'ole boys of the SDGOP.

  9. joeboo 2014.10.12

    Daugaard has covered procedurally but has on numerous times said hey I wasn't there during all of this action and doesn't support it.

    Anywhere to find the dscc ad online?

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.10.12

    Winston, I know nothing about what they are thinking in DC. But I can see in the current ads a strategy at least as plausible as and less melodramatic than a "Pressler Plan B." Rounds is clinging to a slim lead. He is sinking, but he is still the primary threat, with the greatest potential to marshall resources (e.g., a million bucks from the NRSC) to save his candidacy. Rounds must be crushed now.

    Pressler has buzz and novelty but no organization, no million dollars coming, and no deep, screaming support. Killing him is neither as urgent nor as difficult as killing Rounds.

    How about this goal: hit Rounds so hard over the next ten days that he bails out of the KELO debate on October 23. Then in front of the biggest live audience we're going to get, Weiland can focus all fire on distinguishing himself from Pressler and putting the former Senator on the unfamiliar and uncomfortable defensive about his record and the reasons South Dakota rejected him in 1996. That head-to-head alone could be enough to vault Weiland to first place and keep him there... with Howie enjoying the chance to grab some more attention and win over a few more conservatives who want to protest Rounds's wimpiness.

  11. Donald Pay 2014.10.12

    Sorry, Rounds will win.

    The Republicans want the crook (Rounds) to win because they hate the black guy in the White House. They may want to impeach him, and then kick him out of office. If they take the Senate, they can do that. Or they will just keep on obstructing. Either way they will take the country down into chaos, which is exactly what they think will get them elected in 2016. It's really the Hitler approach, and it's the only way the Republicans will ever win the White House again. And once they win it, we will never get rid of them.

    Let's be honest here. The national Republicans would prefer it if they had non-crook elected in South Dakota. I mean it's going to get really messy if charges are brought against Rounds. But they'll take a dishonest hoodlum in order to kick Obama out of office, or make governing more difficult for him, take the country into chaos, and take over the government.

    All the Outlaw Rounds has to do is tie Pressler and Weiland to Obama, and the drooling racist and fascist fools that make up the majority of the South Dakota electorate will mark their ballots for the crook.

    The first step, of course, will be the ads tying Pressler and Weiland to Obama. Wait for it.

  12. Jana 2014.10.13

    Sorry Donald, I'm not ready to give up yet.

    Forget EB-5. What we have seen up and down the ballot are the consequences of a one party ruled state.




  13. Winston 2014.10.13

    Cory, you put forward an interesting strategy for Team Weiland, but I think you are underestimating Pressler's star power. This is the Larry of 1974 and not 1996.

    Pressler has never been known for his campaign organizations. He lost in 1996 because he lost to the best organization he had ever been up against at a time when his popularity was waning in a Presidential year, when Democrats do better; and a Johnson win was seen as aiding Daschle's potential Senate majority.

    Larry has his mojo back and only a major gaffe is going to stop him now.

    Weiland has spent to much time being known as "Take it Back" and not a enough time establishing his actual name.

    Rounds has literally blown it over the last few months with unimaginative commercials, terrible debate performances, and a Nixon style Rose Garden strategy which is beginning to bear bitter fruit.

    Pressler is a name brand who only needs a plurality to win, Weiland and Rounds are more generic candidates - one has not effectively established his name while the other has hidden his presence amidst a cloud of controversy.

  14. Tim 2014.10.13

    Rounds doesn't run ads west river, guess he feels the conservative west is his, but in my time working east river I have seen an ad attempting to do just what Mr Pay says, trying to tie both Pressler and Weiland to the president. Every time I see a Rounds ad I get this queasy feeling in my stomach, you know the feeling, the one you get a few hours after eating some rank food.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.10.13

    "Larry has his mojo back"—I can't believe we're saying this in October 2014.

    [Tim, you didn't get that rank food in Brookings, I'm sure! ;-)]

  16. lesliengland 2014.10.13

    can we list pressler's major flip/flops chronologically which show his "finger to the wind" soul?

  17. Donald Pay 2014.10.13

    les, For some, the flip-flops are a problem with Pressler. It's also why some people see him as a moderate, willing to be persuaded by either side.

    My problem with him wasn't the flip-flops. You can change position honestly. But flip flops that are telling are those flip-flops he made in order to cozy up to leadership during the Reagan years. These flip flops were rank careerism and ego boasting of the worst kind. I never thought Pressler believed all the righty nonsense he spewed during the 1980s. All those "liberal" dispersions he liked to cast then just masked a pitiful man trying to fit in with the troglodyte faction that had taken over his party.

    One thing you can't do is trust Pressler. You have to be on him like glue or he will stray to the side that will give him the most ego stroking.

  18. lesliengland 2014.10.13

    thx. my friends call me lesli:)

  19. lesliengland 2014.10.13

    breitbart is stupid (" sen. tom johnson") and photos harry reid as a seriously powerful appearing leader; calls NRSC $1 mill. SD infusion for rounds' "anemic campaign" and the "underwhelming Republican performance this election", a "parable" which makes no sense. lee, oh lee stranahannamn, where are u, we miss your trolling for boz and mini-me so much? blablablah

  20. mike from iowa 2014.10.13

    Whitey wingnuts need 66 or 67 Sinate votes to impeach. Two thirds must vote to impeach. Obama is safe regardless of who wins the Senate.

  21. lesliengland 2014.10.13

    winston, perhaps your vote has not a chance of going democratic, but re-watch Weiland's interview on UP on MSNBC sunday morning. Pressler's follow-up, though savvy, is no comparison to Weiland's fresh, remarkable and brave positions he clearly elucidates on all the issues we Dems appreciate.

  22. Douglas Wiken 2014.10.13

    Weiland's "take it back" was finally linked to an issue. "Take back control from the very rich who now control Washington" or something much like it.

    A few more "take it backs" would help, but it should be "take yours back".

  23. Lynn 2014.10.13

    I'm watching the Rotary question forum on the Argus Leader's website and Rounds keeps reinforcing a strong military and emphasizing Israel's concern for a nuclear Iran. I can just see Rounds totally in bed with the Military Industrial complex and our country's state of constant war!

  24. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.13

    At this point in the campaign, who has the greater problem in messaging, Mike Rounds or Rick Weiland?
    That "outside" or "dark money" that Republicans have been whining about Rick's campaign getting, is now using that same "outside" or "dark money" to go after Pressler.
    The Dump Site has more threads on their blog attacking Pressler than it does attacking Weiland. Wadhams know that Pressler is now the greater threat to Mike Rounds.

  25. Slynn 2014.10.13

    I presume everyone has seen today's poll Rounds 37 Weiland 33 Pressler 23 Howie 5

  26. Jenny 2014.10.13

    And Rounds didn't even show up for the LGBT invite in held in Sioux Falls, which all of the dem candidates and Pressler appeared at.
    Mike 'No Show' Rounds, South Dakota's 'it's not about EB-5' GOP candidate for governor.

  27. JeniW 2014.10.13

    Has anyone else seen the PAC anti-Pressler ad?

    Made me laugh considering that SD has a love affair going on with gamblers in order to collect revenue.

    The PAC does not know that???? LOL

  28. JeniW 2014.10.13

    Nah, Rounds would not come to the LGBT debate. He is a Catholic, he cannot be seen with, or be connected in any way the the LGBT population.

  29. Lynn 2014.10.13

    LGBT debate? When was this and who sponsored it? Was it publicized?

  30. Jenny 2014.10.13

    Lynn, it was either KSFY or KELO I saw a segment on it. I think it was more of a casual question/answer session from the audience than a debate.

  31. Lynn 2014.10.13

    Jana it's changing but it still has a long ways to go such as making a routine visit to a health care clinic and it turns into a circus atmosphere which can discourage people from seeking basic medical care.

  32. Jana 2014.10.13

    Lynn, there is still a long way to go, but I have two relatives that got married legally to their longtime partners. So while there is a long way to go, let's not forget how far America has come to get where we are at today.

  33. Lynn 2014.10.13

    Jana I agree and especially nationally. It was an experience here in SD.

  34. JeniW 2014.10.13

    Yes, Jana, things are improving and that is good.

    Yet, along with Rounds insulting voters by hiding out, and not participating in debates, I do not think he would want to be associated with being among the LGBT population.

Comments are closed.