Rick Weiland also got beat 50–30 in the Senate election.
Down with Tyranny took a shine to Rick Weiland early in the Senate campaign. Sometime Weiland consultant and former McGovern/Abourwzk/Daschle chief of staff Peter Stavrianos takes to that blogs pages to tell Warren warriors like me to reread Weiland's 20-point deficit as a two-point near-miss for Weiland's message:
This conclusion is not wishful progressive thinking. It is based on a PPP tracking poll completed just two days before the election.
That astonishing survey showed Weiland trailed Rounds by just 2% in a race without Pressler, and was the second choice of the overwhelming majority of Pressler voters.
This was hardly surprising since the independent Pressler ran as a liberal reform candidate, loudly proclaiming he had voted for Obama twice, supported Obamacare, gay marriage, and had marched with Martin Luther King.
In a race without Pressler, Weiland and his message were 30-40% closer to victory than his ballot mate Democratic candidates for Governor and Congress [Peter Stavrianos, "Dead Armadillos? An Analysis Of The 2014 South Dakota Senate Race," Down with Tyranny, 2014.11.21].
I want to believe... but I can't, not this explanation. Here's why:
- I am unclear why anyone is still talking about hypotheticals. There was no such thing as a race without Pressler.
- What PPP tracking poll? I haven't seen any PPP tracking poll. Have you?
- If there was such a tracking poll two days prior to the election, it still makes little sense to parse that data when we have real election results to tell us the real story.
- Even if we give Weiland every one of Pressler's 47,741 votes (and that's absurd, because you know there were Republicans who picked Pressler to keep their conscience clean of Rounds's corruption but would still never vote for a Democrat), we still only wish Weiland to within 3.6 points of Rounds (within margin of error for our guesswork here, but Stavrianos should label that near-miss as within four points, not two).
- Update 20:49 CST [from a reader!]: And if we're playing fantasy one-on-one, aren't we obliged to reassign Gordon Howie's 3% as well? If Weiland gets every Pressler vote, Rounds gets every Howie vote, and by Stav's logic, we up to a seven-point "near-miss". [Update renumbers subsequent points!]
- Pressler did not loudly proclaim a liberal reform agenda. At no time did he align himself with Elizabeth Warren. His support for ObamaCare amounted to pragmatic resistance to repeal and never anything like Weiland's expansion of Medicare to a public option. Gay marriage and MLK Jr. were mentions, not centerpieces. Pressler fumbled abortion rights, for which he was hammered by Weiland backers. Pressler attacked the Keystone XL mythology but proposed hijacking it as part of his multi-pipe Bakken oil plan. To the end, Pressler talked centrism.
- The press agrees with me. None of the three papers that endorsed Pressler said, "He's got Rick's message plus special sauce!" The Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Mitchell papers all endorsed Pressler on experience and breaking gridlock, not on liberal ideology. The Sioux Falls paper called Pressler "moderately conservative."
- And as plausible counter-hypothesis, I contend that voters didn't vote for message. Voters voted for faces (Rounds was Governor for eight years; Pressler served us in Washington for 22) and the big shiny "R" with the flag, the gun, and the cross hanging on it.
Rick Weiland's populist, progressive message did not win the 2014 Senate election. It did not come close. That doesn't mean Warren progressivism is the wrong message. Far from it: Warren and Weiland both have the right message, the one worth fighting for.
Rick and I and other faithful Democrats just can't take Larry Pressler's showing on November 4, 2014, as a validation of that message. We still have lots of work to do to educate voters in 2016, 2018, and beyond.