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Uninspiring Noem Withstands Robinson’s Weak Prep for SDPB Debate

Last updated on 2014.10.20

I apologize: yesterday I said I'd get to some analysis of the Rep. Kristi Noem–Corinna Robinson debate Thursday night on SDPB. Alas, news happens.

The ever level-headed Ken Santema took time out from his vigorous campaign for State Treasurer to blog the debate. He summarizes the thematic highlights, then comes to the remarkable conclusion that neither Noem nor Robinson deserves his vote:

...from a liberty-minded point of view this was not a good debate. There was no true advocate for civil liberties or truly reducing the power of the federal government as a whole. For that reason I will likely stick with my gut feeling from a couple of months ago and leave both circles blank on this part of the ballot. I don’t feel either candidate will stand for civil liberties and economic freedom. South Dakota may not allow write-ins on ballots, but it sure allows for people to skip voting for certain races or ballot questions. This would be a good one to refrain from voting [Ken Santema, "Noem and Robinson SDPB Debate Solidifies Who I Will Vote for in the US House Race," SoDakLiberty, 2014.10.17].

Santema's notes support my main observation from the debate: Rep. Kristi Noem continues to effectively recite the talking points her bosses hand her, while Corinna Robinson continues to recite the talking points she's cobbled together while failing to turn them into focused, effective attacks on the incumbent.

Here are the things Robinson needs to do to win the last big debate on KELO on Friday, October 24:

  1. Use every minute. Moderator Stephanie Rissler regularly offered rebuttal time, and Robinson regularly waved that time off. Even when Noem took the rebuttal time, Robinson sometimes passed. Aaacck! When you're on TV, and someone offers you a chance to talk on TV, you talk!
  2. Prep. Prep prep prep. The savings question at 40:00 caught you unprepared, as demonstrated by the stalling fluster-fluff that preceded your eventual tie-in to policy. You should be sitting down with advisors for days before each debate practicing every imaginable question, even dumb questions, even vague questions. You cannot do this in your own head. You have to have your campaign staff briefing you, drilling you, telling you to do it again.
  3. Attack specifics. The Farm Bill question offered a perfect opportunity to hammer Rep. Noem on policy failures. Noem's inability to move policy left us without a Farm Bill for 15 months. The Farm Bill contained all sorts of groaners: cuts to food stamps, boosts to crop insurance (the cash cow that keeps Kristi's hubby Bryon in paychecks), continued handouts to wealthy corporations, reductions in conservation... and in the face of all that, you open your response by agreeing with Rep. Noem that the Farm Bill is "adequate"?
  4. Attack smart. You did try to attack Rep. Noem on an obvious weakness: her family's three-million-dollar reliance on farm subsidies. A Republican on welfare cutting benefits for less fortunate—this should be an easy, potent attack. But you botched the attack by sloppily asserting that Rep. Noem received $500,000 "just this year alone." That claim is unsupportable because farm subsidy numbers for this year haven't been published yet. That claim also opens the door for Rep. Noem to make you look deceitful and dumb:

    The only way that you can participate in farm programs is if you are actively engaged in agriculture, which I'm currently not [Rep. Kristi Noem, debate on South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Vermillion, SD, 2014.10.16].

    If you were reading the briefs, you'd know that, and you'd practice phrasing your attack to avoid giving Noem that easy, fact-based dodge.

Beating Rep. Noem in a debate should be easy. Get past the pretty, and she still has no punch. Put her on the run, and she still can't marshal the intellectual moxie to reach past her script and grapple with hard facts.

But she's had four years of practice, and lots of well-paid staff to help her practice. Winging it and waving off rebuttals won't beat the Noem machine. Relentless briefing, practice, and smart attacks will.

Now, back to the depositions....


  1. Tim 2014.10.18

    It seems like Ms. Robinson isn't really into this campaign. I'll vote for her just so I don't have to leave the box blank, just wish she was putting a bit more effort into it.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.18

    Same with me, she made some good points during the debate but didn't show enough fire in making them.

    Maybe if Rick wins, she'll ride in on his coattails.

  3. Bob Klein 2014.10.18

    Robinson Staff! What staff?

  4. Lynn 2014.10.18


    I know and I was excited when Corinna Robinson announced in December? What brought my interest here was the shutdown thanks to Noem. It affected me personally and some businesses and contractors who were involved in a project of mine and that shutdown was the last straw for me regarding Noem.

    I have been very frustrated with Robinson's campaign and feel we really missed an opportunity but I do feel without a doubt she would be far better than Noem in office. How Noem was ever elected to public office simply amazes me and does not show much for the South Dakotans who elected her but they have another chance to give her the boot! Noem is the Michele Bachmann of SD but toned down.

  5. mike from iowa 2014.10.18

    Cory,you need to tutor these Dem candidates on the dos and don'ts of debating wingnuts. That is all there is to it.

  6. Lynn 2014.10.18

    Cory could be their debate coach Mike and prep them before events.

  7. mike from iowa 2014.10.18

    Good idea,Lynn. All in favor say aye. Aye!

  8. Bill Fleming 2014.10.18

    Aye. (Comment too short, :-)

  9. Bill Fleming 2014.10.18

    He will have to be paid of course. A small up front fee against a massive win bonus. LOL

  10. mike from iowa 2014.10.18

    It is near unanimous then. Happy days are here again.

  11. Lynn 2014.10.18

    Sounds good to me Bill! Let's do it!

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.10.18

    Well, thank goodness I have a job lined up for 2016! ;-)

    Actually, I know several debate coaches who could whip any candidate into shape.

    I'm willing to posit that Robinson is smarter than Noem when it comes to government, foreign policy, the military, etc. Robinson just doesn't have big money and a party apparatus pouring money into her candidacy to pay for extensive grooming, briefing, and coaching. Robinson's not a beauty pageant alumna, so Robinson probably doesn't take orders to smile and wave and mouth certain words as easily as Noem does.

  13. Bob Klein 2014.10.18

    I'm happy to hire Robinson to be my congressman. Just disappointed that she didn't get off to a better start given the talent she must possess given her resume.

  14. Greg 2014.10.19

    Corrina Robinson is really out to lunch on her attacks on Noem on this years farm program subsidies. There is no farm program payments for 2014 as there was no signup as of now. Noem could have been beat by a good candidate, come on Democrats nominate people that can win.

  15. lesliengland 2014.10.19

    Greg-Corrina would be a powerful, no b.s. democratic voice for SD, and after a year in office would be FORMIDABLE. I have met her and have no doubt of her ability. If she made debate mistakes, make sure she doesn't in October 24th's CRITICAL debate. Give a fellow democrat a hand, perfection is an elusive quality.

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