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Howie Wins SDPB Debate on Points and Aggression, Orders Tacos…

Rick Weiland, Larry Pressler, Mike Rounds, and Gordon Howie "debated" on South Dakota Public Broadcasting last night to prove who ought to be South Dakota's next Senator. Here are the most important observations to come from the debate:

  1. Gordon Howie wins on points. He challenged Mike Rounds directly on EB-5, saying the former governor had brought the scandal upon himself by skipping debates and giving false information. He challenged Rounds to testify under oath on EB-5. Howie blasted Rounds for doubling the state budget and leaving a $127-million structural deficit. And Rounds ignored those points. Ignoring points usually means you lose a debate.
  2. Gordon Howie railed against "corruption" and "crony capitalism," yet he used the public airwaves to plug a private company. He joked that all the campaign ads were crowding out Taco John's commercials. Hmm... is Gordon making a deal for his own Schiefferesque cavalry cash from a conservative businessman and USD grad?
  3. Mike Rounds implied EB-5 is good, because it's a program just like Canada has (well, had: Canada decided the visa investment program doesn't pay off and canceled it this year). By that logic, Rounds should embrace single-payer health insurance.
  4. Weiland felt too restrained, especially at the beginnings of his responses, as if he was overplaying the humble country-boy image. I understand the psychology at play, but gentle aw-shucksery will not defeat the Rounds machine. Weiland did build fire in each of his answers, but beating Rounds requires pushing Rounds off his script and forcing him to answer questions. (Remember: Rounds has proven really bad at answering questions!) Blend Weiland's policy and Howie's relentless attack last night, and you keep Mike Rounds out of the Senate.
  5. Weiland does get points for blowing raspberries at Senator Harry Reid. Weiland said he will not vote for Harry Reid or Republican Senator Mitch McConnell for majority leader, saying both men have led the Senate into dysfunction. He cleverly challenged Rounds to make the same pledge. Rounds muttered about Reid but didn't mention McConnell.
  6. Weiland also gets points for common sense solutions. Weiland advocated Senator Tom Harkin's bill to eliminate the income cap on Social Security tax and get Bill Gates to pay for protecting Social Security. Rounds called that a $100 billion tax hike on "job creators," which is code for reducing the middle class to serfdom under the wealthy elites backing Rounds.
  7. Speaking of Social Security, Pressler rejected Democratic arguments that he wants to raise the retirement age. Pressler said last night he would leave the retirement age where it is.
  8. Weiland pinned the Ryan budget on Rounds, saying Rounds backs the GOP House's intentions to gut Head Start, Pell Grants, and other programs that benefit the middle class. Weiland said Rounds would voucherize Medicare so old folks could take the Ryan coupons to buy insurance at Fischer Rounds. Rounds repeated his feeble dodge that he "admires" Paul Ryan's fiscal efforts but has never said he supports the Ryan budget... which is code for, "You have no idea what I'll do to you in office, and I don't have to tell you."
  9. Weiland also nicely flipped the Rounds argument that an obstructionist Senate is to blame for our woes. Weiland said we could have immigration reform now, with more secure borders, if Speaker Boehner would just take up the bipartisan bill the Senate passed last year 68-32.
  10. Rounds is now fully on board with Republican fear-mongering. Invoking ISIS and Ebola (thank goodness for one-word threats), Rounds repeated "safety and security" as much as he repeated "South Dakota common sense." He also said we should impose a travel ban to stop Ebola "right now."
  11. Pressler continues to look every bit the capable statesman alongside his younger, less experienced counterparts. He recites the same points in every debate—Independent caucus, obsolete bases in Italy, three-point immigration plan—but that's a focused candidate staying on message. And he keeps coming up with new images for his campaign. He's gone from naked rabbit to last night's David up against twelve goliaths (Rounds, Weiland, and PACs), with a slingshot of idealism and friendship (translation: paint your own signs, because Harriet and I can't afford them!). Pressler still talks policy and turns phrases as effectively as anyone else in the campaign.


  1. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.10.24

    Gordon Howe nailed Rounds and DD as well on the immigration issue which Rounds jumped on board with closing the borders. Howe slammed them for doing nothing about the illegal immigrants that have been hired at some of the EB-5 companies that their policies promoted. Howie talked about how he had proposed immigration reform at the State level when he was in the legislature, but it went no where, because the governor would not go along with it.

    Anyone who lives in Sioux Falls and has seen the shingles being replaced from the ice storm this summer, knows that the United States could not get along without the Hispanic immigrants, legal and illegal who do the hard work entailed in shingling a building, as well as other manual labor.

    Howie may have been wrong in his assumption that we should not have illegals working in this country, but at least he is consistent with his view. Mike Rounds, on the other hand, will say whatever sounds good to the voters. He is a kind of a "do as I say not as I do" type of guy. His values are not what I would call "South Dakota Values."

  2. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    One thing Rick missed a shot on, perhaps out of modesty? Is that if the concern is Ebola and crisis management, no one on the state last night as more experience in that front than former FEMA director Rick Weiland, and his brother Dr. Kevin Weiland. The nation couldn't ask for two better guys to help out in a national disaster. And nobody, but nobody would work harder and smarter.

  3. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    Gawd I hate posting from my cell phone. Sorry about all the dumb typos.

  4. Troy 2014.10.24

    I think Howie executed his strategy very well. Not a strategy that will move the needle for him though. Republicans have chosen between him and Rounds and little can be said to move it.

    Rounds also executed his strategy very well. By staying focused on the distinction between him and Rick, he reminded these red state voters of the big picture.

    Weiland' strategy at first was hard to discern. At first it might be his ads redux but I think it was he was trying to present himself as a populist vs. a progressive. As my eyes and ears are least capable of hearing what a liberal is saying, I could have missed it. And, since I am not sure of the strategy, I can't say if he executed it well.

    For four years while working for Abdnor, I had many times of observing Pressler. Some days I said he is a genius. Other days I said he was an idiot. I am amazed that he could change my mind several times in an hour.

  5. larry kurtz 2014.10.24

    Troy: your boy is going down.

  6. Jenny 2014.10.24

    So Troy, what's your take on Lake Sharpe Investments and all these LLCs that just popped up in 2012 - right around the same time Rounds announced he was running for Senator. Padding the campaign jar maybe?

  7. John Tsitrian 2014.10.24

    I thought Weiland was a dud. Rounds' character and poor performance as governor are the tragic flaws in MR's campaign. RW missed a lot of opportunities to pound away at those. Rick is too infatuated with his persona as a neo-populist. He could use some of Howie's street-fighting skills.

  8. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    Rick is going to be on 100 Eyes today. I hope he takes the gloves off and throws down. It's time. ( for those who don't know, 100 Eyes can be accessed via 'That Newspaper That Must Not Be Named'.

  9. Troy 2014.10.24

    My comments are my assessment of the debate strategies the candidates came to deploy and how well they executed them. Except with regard to my comment I think Howie had the wrong strategy and the reality I can't figure Pressler out, I said nothing with regard to Weiland's strategy or Rounds strategy was the best. Both Rounds and Weiland have enough people around them to form a strategy, I presume it is based on information, and they came intending to execute the strategy.

  10. JeniW 2014.10.24

    Unfortunately, 100 Eyes are not captioned, and they do not provide a text of the conversation after the interviews. Very disappointing.

    I mentioned it to the staff, but obviously, I was not successful.

  11. Winston 2014.10.24

    Rounds looked tired and depressed. Howie's performance really doesn't matter. Pressler came across genuine and Weiland was very smooth.

    I thought Weiland and Pressler gained the most from this debate, but Pressler will gain more from it in the long run because he is a brand name and Weiland is not.

    Weiland has spent to much time throughout his campaign talking about "Take it Back" and not enough time about "Rick Weiland," and who he is. This is the great flaw of his campaign. They never took Pressler serious enough and to the degree they did it was only in the context that a Pressler independent candidacy would help Weiland's chances. When they first noticed Pressler's polling strength with Democrats is the day the Weiland camp should have shifted gears and started talking about Rick Weiland, his story, and how it fits in to his "Take it Back" concerns; which are very legitimate and genuine concerns and I think Rick understands them better than any of the other Senate candidates.

    The genius of the Pressler strategy comes from the fact that Pressler is one, a name brand and two, it then allowed him to spend all of his time on his theme of independence, bipartisanship, and the ending of gridlock in DC.

    South Dakotans really do not know Weiland, but they know Pressler and only 34% of the electorate need to like him for him to win.

  12. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.10.24

    Winston, After reading your assessment, I am not sure that you and I watched the same debate. I presume you are talking about the one last night on SDPB.

  13. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    Hey Winston, listen up.

    1. More than 34% of the people in SD are registered Democrats, and it doesn't matter if they know Rick or not.

    2. Larry Pressler isn't a Democrat, nor is he an acceptable substitute for one.

    3. Any Democrat still being pissy about Stephanie Herseth Sandlin not running this year or who is harboring some old gripe about Weiland and Jim Abbot needs to %$&*ing get over it.

    4. If all the Democrats vote for Rick Weiland, half of the indys do, and a handful of sane Republicans Rick will win.

    5. Any Democrat who doesn't vote for Rick Weiland in this particular election isn't really a Democrat.

    Thank you.

    *climbs down of of partisan soapbox*

  14. chris 2014.10.24

    I really am disappointed with SDPB's timed debate format. The candidates all deserved more than 30 seconds to answer a question or to make a statement. And among the many times Ms. Rissler dutifully chopped off Larry Pressler's comfortable South Dakota drawl, she once missed Weiland's turn to speak, arbitrarily wasting 2-3 valuable seconds Pressler could have used to finish his sentence. I find the 60 minute length ridiculous, and feel that it reflects badly on the priorities of SDPB to inform the citizens of SD
    It all reminds me of traveling to high school debates in Omaha circa 1988, where the locals' insane winning tactics were speed-talking while hyped on amphetamines, and the ubiquitous nuclear war disads.
    I thought SDPB would have learned from the Noem-Varilek debate debacle. It makes no sense to compress the time as they do.

  15. S Hart 2014.10.24

    Bill Fleming: "Any Democrat who doesn't vote for Rick Weiland in this particular election isn't really a Democrat."

    My thoughts, EXACTLY!!! We need all democrats to be united.

  16. Douglas Wiken 2014.10.24

    I don't know who came up with the "Take it Back" slogan, but it was not a good idea or slogan. All of Weiland's ads should have had his name on the bottom of the screen all the time. One of Weiland's recent ads has tangled syntax that may lead some to believe Weiland supports Rounds positons. Getting information to Weiland organization has been frustrating. Supporting illegal immigration is not a winning strategy for a Democrat in South Dakota.

    I kind of doubt any voter opinions were changed by the SDPB-TV debate or its radio rebroadcast a few minutes ago.

  17. o 2014.10.24

    Bill, Doesn't partisan voting - asking to support a candidate ONLY because of party affiliation - the worst way to win an election in SD for a Democrat? If people go to the polls with partisan mindsets, it's over (as it has so often been) for the Democrats. This sports team mentality absolves voters from thought, and perpetuates the reigning GOP majority.

    I hope SD voters cast votes for the issues they believe in - issues embodied and advocated by candidates. Only then will we movement toward the issues that demand legislative attention.

    Getting the GOP loyalists to see that there should be reservations with Rounds, getting them to see beyond the "R" in front of his name on the ballot is the high ground campaigns ought to take; work to break up partisanship allegiances. Let us elect candidates, not party drones.

  18. jana 2014.10.24

    Bill, this exactly the wrong time for you to climb off that wonderful soapbox.

    Get back up there and I'll bring you a sandwich.

    Cory, give him a boost up there!

  19. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.10.24

    Bill and Jana, o is exactly correct. With that line of thinking the Republican will win every time. That must mean that since I am Republican, I must vote for MMR, and I can assure you that ain't gonna happen.

  20. Steve Sibson 2014.10.24

    "Republicans have chosen between him and Rounds and little can be said to move it."

    Troy, the difference between the success of Rounds and that of Howie is that the crony capitalist are funding Rounds. Including you, right?

  21. Steve Sibson 2014.10.24

    Lanny, I agree with your last comment 100%. So who are you going to vote for?

  22. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.10.24

    Steve, I still haven't decided. I was planning on waiting until the final poll comes out and whichever is ahead between Pressler and Weiland, I would vote for, but last night I kind of thought that on principal, I should probably vote for Howie, since he was the only one who took it to the crony capitalist. I am clearly undecided.

  23. S Hart 2014.10.24

    I would never want anyone to vote on the basis of party affiliation. However, if South Dakota Democrats want to have a strong voice in this state, the first step must be showing support for an excellent candidate such as Rick Weiland. I do not see any reason for anyone who believes in the principles of the democratic party to support any of three other candidates.

  24. 96Tears 2014.10.24

    Cory, my spouse and I agree that Howie won. He took on the documented criminality and fakery of Mike Rounds firmly and directly and scolded him for ducking debates and lying. He demonstrated authenticity reaching out to Weiland while disagreeing agreeably on virtually every issue. I think he connected with the TV audience, which is something the others did not do as well.

    Pressler was wooden and animatronic. When the moderator called time, he stopped dead in his tracks with head down. It was distracting from what he said and it was hilarious. Chauncey Gardiner.

    Weiland might have been holding back and feeling snakebit from the TV slams on Pressler backfiring in polling (Jody Severson's whack-a-mole comment comes to mind). Don't know. He stayed in his shell too much, too often when he has a very pleasant, cheerful personality that can be charismatic. Just not last night. Next time, Rick, is the last time. Fire up the charm, baby!

    Rounds seemed like a tired, leathery, malfunctioning puppet. Bad or too much makeup? The "South Dakota common sense" soundbite seemed tone deaf in light of his well publicized criminal issues. Racketeering and filling your pockets and your pals' pockets are not what South Dakotans call common sense, and someone will score points by saying exactly that in the KELO debate. To Troy's point, Rounds' attempts to insert the GOP nationalized narrative in this South Dakota issue-based campaign may be a dog whistle to Tea Party Republicans, but Rounds is the wrong guy to talk about government waste and bloated budgeting when his record is loaded with examples of such. (See Mobridge Tribune editorial)

    I don't think Mike Rounds has lost this election yet. There are a lot of early ballots being cast and there is little evidence of a Democratic Party effort in the field. That tells me the lion's share of those early votes are going to Rounds. The remaining votes going forward are probably Democrats and independents who are waiting and watching. No doubt, Wadhams will be running the usual GOP slimy push calls to suppress those voters. In football, we call this the two-minute drill.

  25. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    S Hart, exactly.

    If Rick Weiland hasn't modeled for Democrats this year why we even have a Democratic Party, they no campaign can. There is simply no other candidate in the race who will represent the parties values any better than Rick will.

    I'm fine with people voting for anyone they please.

    All I'm saying is that any Democrat who doesn't vote for Rick Weiland in this years election for Senate probably isn't really a Democrat, and should maybe rethink their party registration.

    Because there couldn't possibly be more at stake, and absolutely none of the candidates has worked nearly as hard and long to earn Democratic votes as Rick Weiland has done this year.

  26. Winston 2014.10.24


    1) The problem with your first comment is that Weiland primarily polls in the mid to high twenties. In order, to garner 34% of the vote he needs a swing in his favor of about eight percentage points. Where does he get that swing?... well, from "Pressler Democrats" but to make that goal he has to
    spend all of his time and money attacking Pressler or claiming to be the "Real Democrat," which only gives Rounds a pass or a bye towards being elected.

    2) In terms of your second contention, I believe the real "closet" story about Pressler is that he has always been a centralist or even a left of center person and this campaign has allowed him to come out of the closet; which explains why in this campaign he has been more articulate than I have ever seen him to be.

    3) To your third contention, I find it fascinating that in the Democratic establishment's attempt to stop Sandlin they have actually, in essence, created Pressler. What the Democratic elite in South Dakota did is they created a political vacuum, which Pressler filled, because Weiland's name brand was not there. If you do not like Pressler as a pseudo Democrat then you only have the establishment Democrats to blame for it.

    4) I totally agree with your fourth contention except that it is totally dependent upon the word "If."

    5) As to your final contention, I consider myself to be a good Democrat and on election day I am going to vote for who I believe has the best chance of defeating Rounds. I am a liberal pragmatic Democrat, that is. I learned this quality by artfully watching and respecting the politics of Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson over the years.

  27. Jenny 2014.10.24

    Did anyone figure out what Troy is saying? He usually makes more sense than that. Why don't you just answer my question about Lake Sharpe Investments and Rounds association with it, Mr Jones. Why the hell is tax payer money going to these so-called LLCs that employ hardly any jobs? Face it, your Golden Boy is a crook and I can't believe South Dakota voters are not upset about it.

  28. S Hart 2014.10.24

    My biggest fear this year is that democrats will abandon Rick Weiland and go for the Rounds kill. The ironic thing about it is that if all democrats would vote for the candidate that best represents the principles of their party, Round and Pressler would both go down!

  29. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    Winston, I'm pretty sure Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle would be lobbying even more strongly than I am for you to vote for Rick Weiland. In fact, I'd be willing to bet on it.

  30. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    S Hart, exactly, divide and conquer. Let the Indy's and the Repubs be the ones who can't make up their minds.

  31. grudznick 2014.10.24

    Bah. The only thing Mr. Howie ever won is the insaner than most category in his high-school year book. He never laid a mitt on Mr. Pressler and if he and Gov. Rounds flip 30 points then I'll believe he won.

  32. grudznick 2014.10.24

    I hope you put up Howie signs in your yard, Mr. Stricherz, and go down to your local greasy breakfast spoon and rant to all who will listen about Mr. Howie's plans. Your vote for him only feeds the loons.

  33. Winston 2014.10.24

    Bill, a course they would, but privately I think it is a totally different story. If Pressler wins and sticks to one term, then that leaves an open Senate seat in 2020 for then Representative Brendan Johnson; and also if Pressler wins then Brendan can effectively play the bi-partisan card in a 2016 House race by arguing that the South Dakota delegation in Washington needs both parties to be represented - It will be harder for Brendan to beat Noem in 2016 if Weiland is already in the Senate. So it becomes a question of who is the better long term investment for South Dakota Democrats, Rick or Brendan?

    However, if Weiland wins then that gives Daschle a potential advantage over Reid and the DSCC in a tightly held Senate majority…. to the degree that their feud is real... that is.

    So I am not so sure that Daschle and Johnsons' interests are entirely mutual… privately that is….

  34. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.10.24

    I have told you Grudz, I am totally undecided as to whom to vote for. For whom are you going to vote and for whom do you think I should vote?

  35. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.24

    Whatever happened with last night's debate, Rick still has a solid Democratic voting base.
    The concern should be with the three Republicans in this race and how Independents and Republicans are splitting their votes for Howie, Rounds, and Pressler.
    Pressler"s (I) after his name on the ballot will not sway any God fearing Democrat.
    The story here is that two Republicans came on pretty strong against Mike Rounds, did Rick really need to do that much or was it good strategy to stay above the fray?
    Waiting for Troy to comeback and discuss the most revelations from The Nation. I asked Powers about it on Twitter, but he was too busy declaring Howie dumb and Mike Rounds the debate winner.

  36. JeniW 2014.10.24

    In visiting with a few friends who had watched the debate, they were impressed with all the candidates except Rounds.

    They noted Rounds body language and facial expressions. Bad vibes.....

  37. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    :-) Lotta spitballin' there Winston.

    If, if and if....

    In the meantime how about all the "ifs" if Pressler gets in? He seems like he changes his mind every 10 minutes.

    Or worse yet, what if Mr. Rounds wins?

    I'll stick with the bird in the hand.

    Rick is far closer to winning this than anyone ever thought he would be.

    Let's take it home and vote for the Democrat.

  38. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    p.s. Winston, look at it this way, if you snuggle up to mister Pressler on election day and he loses, you're gonna hate yourself in the morning. LOL.

  39. Roger Cornelius 2014.10.24

    If "if and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a wonderful Christmas".

  40. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    Ho, ho, ho, brother Roger.

  41. Winston 2014.10.24

    My "Ifs" are not a problem, because I have presented both sides of the equation and their possibilities...

  42. Bill Fleming 2014.10.24

    No you didn't Winston, but I'll leave it to you to keep noodling it. You're a smart guy, you'll figure it out.

  43. Bill Fleming 2014.10.25

    Here's how razor thin things lay out against the current SD voter registration data. Please double check my proportions on this. (Source is

    Registered Republicans = 44%
    Registered Democrats = 35%
    Registered Independents = 20%
    Other = 1%

    For Rick to win, something like the following has to happen:

    1. Assume for a baseline that everyone votes exactly as they are registered, and that Pressler is far more popular than Howie in the Indy and Other categories.

    So on a purely partisan (and admittedly idealized) model things start out like this:

    Rounds 44%
    Weiland 35%
    Pressler 17%
    Howie 4%

    2. Next, assume that one out of every 5 Republicans is persuaded that Rounds does not deserve their vote, so they will vote for a different 'flavor' of Republican. That reduces Rounds' total by 9 points (20%x44=8.8). Give 7 of those points to Pressler and 2 to Howie.

    3. Next, assume the Democrats get some discipline and backbone and vote for the only guy in the race that represents their political party. (Remember, the purpose of a political party is to win elections? Doh.)

    4. If just that, and only that happens, Rick ties as follows:
    Rounds 44-9=35
    Weiland 35
    Pressler 17+7=24
    Howie 4+2=6

  44. lesliengland 2014.10.25

    so winston, yer voting pressler. sad. rick's it, take it back, it'll be interesting how he, tom and harry interact after a win. i ain't wait'n for 2016. its a long shot. gonna be interesting too these next 10 days, the longest days of rounds so-called life :)

  45. Bill Fleming 2014.10.25

    The above (admittedly idealized) final proportions come curiously close to the numbers we have been seeing in the polls. What puzzles me is why both Howie and Weiland seem to be underperforming against this model. Where is the Tea Party? I thought they were interested in having a voice in SD politics. And where are the Democrats? Do we want to win elections in this state, or not? Thus endeth the lecture. Cory, go get 'em boss. ;-)

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