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Weiland Consultant Spins 2014 Election as Near-Win for Weiland Message

The South Dakota Democratic Party needs to channel Elizabeth Warren and adopt an unapologetic populist progressivism in defense of the working class. Rick Weiland speaks that Warrenesque language.

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:

  1. I am unclear why anyone is still talking about hypotheticals. There was no such thing as a race without Pressler.
  2. What PPP tracking poll? I haven't seen any PPP tracking poll. Have you?
  3. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. 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!]
  6. 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.
  7. 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."
  8. 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.


  1. Sam @ 2014.11.24

    You got to be kidding. Anti Gun, anti Keystone are issues that will not win any election in South Dakota.

  2. Bill Fleming 2014.11.24

    I think Stav has a point, Cory.

    The Republicans certainly framed the race as "a vote for either Pressler or Weiland is a vote for Obama" in their ads, as well as in Round's talking points in the last two debates. It was practically the only thing Rounds ever said.

    And while Pressler may not actually BE a liberal, progressive, he was certainly looking like one, walking like one, and quacking like one.

    Put it this way... of all the statewide races this year, the one that came the closest to being a showdown between left and right ideologies was the Senate race.

    Incidentally, the PPP poll was likely internal, as were many of the polls published during the race. The two camps would publish their results from time to time for various reasons, not the least of which was that there was so little public polling in the field on the race.

    And yes, I think Larry Pressler was a spoiler for Weiland. But probably not the only factor. Voter turnout was miserable, especially in districts where it would have had to be extraordinary in order for Weiland to win, even in a head-to-head matchup with Mr. Rounds.

    But in closing, let's just be clear. This was all Don Frankenfeld's fault. He needs to call up Mr. Stavrianos and his old friend Tom Daschle and apologize.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.24

    Sam, when did Weiland say anything anti-gun? While we're at it, has Obama taken your guns yet?

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.24

    Frankenfeld! He's like the Mule in Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, throwing off all of Hari Seldon's math. :-D

    Did anyone really read Pressler as a liberal? Did anyone really see him as speaking the same language as Weiland?

  5. JeniW 2014.11.24

    Sam, what would you propose to do to help reduce the violent acts against humans where firearms are used?

    It is not the firearms that are the main issue, the core issue is that some people think that it is acceptable to engage in violent crimes while using firearms.

    If you can help find the way to reduce the violence, you will go a long way to reducing the fear that some people have of firearms.

  6. jerry 2014.11.24

    I wish people in South Dakota would show some interest in what is happening in North Dakota regarding oil spills and the effect of those on the landscape. When I speak to people in South Dakota they all say that the beauty of this place is what matters to them. How can a sludge pond of with the acrid stench of oil be any beauty to these folks? They need to see the nightmare of North Dakota to believe it. There you can see ugly as ugly gets. I do not think the place will ever recover from this, ever.

  7. Lynn 2014.11.24

    Jerry that was an excellent article the NYT wrote and I suspected that was happening up there though it looks far worse than I imagined. Did you see where the spill incidents have occurred and how many especially near Missouri River? We might have toxic chemicals coming down the Missouri piped thru various water lines like WEB to towns and we don't even know it since they are trademarked and we are not set up to test for it.

    I am very happy for North Dakotans to prosper from this boom but I feel they will end up paying a heavy environmental price and as mentioned in the article they have about 1000 toxic waste water pits left over from the 80's oil development that have still not been taken care of.

    KXL is a disaster waiting to happen if it is approved.

  8. jerry 2014.11.24

    Yes Lynn, it is true the absolute war zone of North Dakota. The oil companies have destroyed splendor of the prairie just like they will here if that black snake arrives. The impact zones of fracking look like bombing targets in the mid east and with more or less the same results. Some can say that being against the XL is a no win position for the Democratic party, I say that someone has to stand for the outrageous behavior of what powerful moneyed interests have over rural America.

    We need to realize that they do not give a care about us here as people. They live in their ivory towers above all the fray of oil field disasters and the spills that accompany them.

    There Judas goats here run the errands for them while providing talking points that only lead to the promise of Emerald City being real. At the first sign of distress, they will drift away when the disasters start to come. They will then bleat that it was someone else's fault that the pipe came apart or that the explosion was of some mysterious doing. No one wants the blame, everyone wants the false hope of money while the flyover part of America disintegrates. By convincing us that pipelines are just wonderful, they also manage to then bring in Uranium mining as if that is just swell as well.

    If people in South Dakota gave a care, they would check out the first Keystone pipeline and see the riches that false promise has bought so far to the counties it has traversed and to the state that green lighted the line. How many spills have been recorded there? Democrats need to stand tall against this monster and speak loudly without blinking.

  9. Bill Fleming 2014.11.24

    I really don't see the KXL happening. Next time it comes through Congress, if it passes, I think Obama will do an override proof veto and that will be the end of it.

  10. Patrick Duffy 2014.11.24

    Fleming is exactly right.

    It is all Don Frankenfeld's fault.

  11. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.11.24

    "Warren and Weiland both have the right message, the one worth fighting for."

    I really couldn't agree with Cory more.

  12. Tim 2014.11.24

    Cory, Pressler is a republican, granted much more moderate than most of the wingnut right, but still a republican.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.24

    Deb, are we allowed to keep fighting for a message, even when the voters keep shooting it down?

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.11.24

    Yes indeed Cory. No equivocating, but more effective language if necessary, so that citizens gain better understanding.

  15. judy judy 2014.11.24

    I am a Democrat but, Deb, it is just like a Democrat to think the public would agree with us if they just understood what we were saying. Maybe they just don't agree with us right now. Polls show most think things are going well here right now and they just aren't willing to vote for change.

  16. sheldon osborn 2014.11.25

    Nielson Brothers didn't ask the question about where Pressler voters would go without Pressler that PPP did internally for the Weiland campaign but, for those interested, their tracking poll for the last two weeks of the election is now up on their web site. / It looks like Nielsons over estimated Democratic turnout like every other public poll. But it also shows that if Pressler was out of the race and most of his voters voted for Weiland, the race would have been close. But then again, if you add Howie's voters to Rounds, Rounds has a comfortable lead. To me it doesn't appear Weiland could not have beaten Rounds heads up or otherwise.

  17. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.11.25

    judy, judy, I spoke of better understanding, not necessarily agreement, though that would be nice. Generalities like, "it is just like a Democrat", achieve neither.

  18. mike from iowa 2014.11.25

    More effective language, if necessary? Wingnuts in every state have been shown to be crooks,liars and piss poor imitations of christians and yet the votes keep coming. That is a head scratcher for sure.

  19. mike from iowa 2014.11.25

    Bill F- I am going to disarguefy on kxl. Wingnuts will keep this alive until they get it built even if it takes forever just to spite Obama. We would never had a war in Afghanistan if wingnuts hadn't harbored a secret desire to re-fight VietNam and prove to the media we could have won the first time. It is within the realm of possibility they will try a third time to get it right.

    Are they bat-shit crazy enough to try it?

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.25

    Judy Judy, I agree that we shouldn't fall into the GOP thinking that we just have to improve our messaging. I prefer to think of the problem as one of requiring a long time to get people to change their thinking. Feel free to tell me I'm just deluding myself with word games.

    But I wonder, Judy Judy: are you suggesting in your mention of polls and satisfaction that Dems' only chance lies in some big external change happening, a massive farm crisis or economic downturn or some such disaster that would upset South Dakotans' complacency?

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.25

    Mike, how much of that wingnut passion for Keystone XL is just a response to hippie passion against Keystone XL? Do they just see a chance to beat up on hippies and pounce?

  22. mike from iowa 2014.11.25

    BF-your poll makes me wonder how wingnuts define progress. Maybe they don't use the word progress(ive). It might give them cooties.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.25

    Key finding in the poll Bill links: 48% say they are happy the GOP won the Senate, while 38% say they are unhappy. Not much enthusiasm there. More key: 44% say they approve of the GOP leadership's plans and policies while 43% say they disapprove. There's a chunk of people there who are like back in my ugly Republican days, not paying attention to policy but reveling in schadenfreude at weeping Dems. Ugh.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.25

    Also worth noting: 66% of GOP respondents say "stand up to Obama, even if less gets done", while 52% of Dems say "work with Republicans." Maybe that's a key part of our messaging: even as we tell people that our message is right, we make clear that we are far more willing to give them the pragmatic compromise that Larry Pressler said they wanted. That's the proper way to co-opt the Republican vote. We don't promise to act like Republicans. We just remind voters that when they put us Dems in power, they'll still get the GOP's good ideas, because we are compromisers.

  25. mike from iowa 2014.11.25

    Squirrels(wingnuts)-well,Obama safely guided us through all that traffic to get us to this side of the road where prospects look much brighter. But,he's black and didn't we all feel safer and more secure when we rebelled and tried to make him fail? Good. Now let's go bac.......splat! As I was saying before Obama tried to get us killed,we made it and we can make it ba......splat,splat. Damn Obama. It's all his (splat) fault for (splat,splat,splat) forcing us to (splat,splat) be here where we don't (splat) want(splat) to (splat,splat) be(splat). Impeach his black(splaaaaaaaaaaaaat) hide.

  26. mike from iowa 2014.11.25

    Cory,maybe we'll find out about a backlash to hippies if wingnuts can convince union hardhats to attack kxl protesters as wingnuts did with 60s war protesters.

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.25

    Indeed, Mike, Keystone XL is a contentious issue for the Dem base, setting hippies against unions. I had a spirited debate in D.C. with a union boss from Vegas about Keystone XL. They buy the jobs numbers.

    That hard hat riot split harkens to the challenge Bernie Sanders is talking about. We need to stick by our principles, but we have to make clear how our principles are better for the working class than the pro-corporate, pro-management favoritism of the GOP. We've got to reach the working class in their gut, in their heart, the way the GOP does with social issues, guns, and God.

  28. Lynn 2014.11.25

    Aside from the environmental risk, not respecting individual property rights another major issue as long as we are talking about labor and our economy is pipe sourced from India. I'm sure the North American and in particular US steel workers and plants were thrilled about that. Then there are quality standards and tolerance specs of that foreign made pipe.

  29. Jenny 2014.11.25

    Thanks for not spinning the Weiland loss, Cory. Dems lost and they lost bad, real, real bad. Enough with this spinning talk, kind of like saying that the MN Vikings are really close to being in the playoffs this year.

  30. Nicholas Weiland 2014.11.25

    The thing that surprises me most about #sdsen 2014 is that for a brief time in October we did get close and no one thought that was going to happen. People wrote Weiland off from the beginning, with no help from the DSCC. He put that race in play on his own, but then came the head fake from Reid, with a million dollar ad buy that turned in to 200k, not to mention the promise of a ground game that never came. All that seems to have done was wake up the R's base, and join John Thune and Rounds at the hip. (It also got progressives around the country involved with small donations to Weiland camp...) But how much money did the national GOPers spend in the end, somewhere around 2 million I think? And what a change the Rounds Campaign made after that, night and day if you ask me. Negative attack ads, oops sorry contrast ads, commercials that didn't absolutely suck, a strong anti Obama message...

    Listen, we took a camera, a van, a guitar and a populist message and we made national news by putting this race in play. That is a win if you ask me. Sure we got smoked, but let us not forget that this was #1 on multiple lists as most likely to change hands. If you all don't think that wasn't a serious win well it just goes to show why the D's is South Dakota have lost whatever it was that let them elect McGovern, the most liberal Presidential candidate in modern times. How did we let that happen, and how can we not stand up right now and fight even harder for the people that we know need a hand up and a shot at a decent life. Because we know what side of the isle stands up for the people, or at least they use to.

    My suggestion to all of you is that we need a full court press to get at the youth. It seems to me that all around the nation the younger generations are more accepting of the social issues that seem to divide us so. Not so much In SD, even in the supposedly liberal campus of USD there is little to no presence. I’m going to assume that most of you that will be reading this will have been around in the 60’s, well I wasn’t, but the youth had a voice back then, they had a mission and they changed the world with it. Today the youth does not give a damn, because none of you are talking about anything that matters to them, amongst many other variables. The only way we break the Republican strong hold here is by infiltrating the youth and getting them involved, if you ask me. We are right on Climate change, gay rights, teacher pay, minimum wage, keystone… and the youth are with us on those issues, but we have no clue how to convey that to them or get them motivated to vote. Well I have a secret to share with everyone, we are in the mists of a visual revolution because of the internet, social media and cheap cameras and I sure hope that the D’s figure that out before the R’s do.

    What this campaigned proved to me, and it is why I am just as fired up today as I was in October (Well almost), is that with a camera, a blog or two, some social media, a guitar, a blue mini van and a lot hard work you can impact the world, even from here is little Sioux Falls South Dakota. That is something that was not as true in years past, and it will become more true as the information age matures. The blog has circumvented the newspaper, well I am going to bet that cheap cameras / editing software and all the other technology that use to only be available to the news station will circumvent them also. That is how I think we win in 2016, but it has to start now. Who is with me??!!

  31. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.25


    Note that I'm not saying Weiland's message can't win or that we shouldn't try again to make it win. I'm just saying it didn't come as close to winning this time as Stavrianos argues, since Pressler was not a fellow purveyor of that message. We're going to need more cameras and guitars, Nick!

  32. tara volesky 2014.11.25

    I am 100% behind you Nick. Your family reminds me of the Kennedys, wanting to help the poor, the needy, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and the disenfranchised. It's time to bring some outsiders and young people to the table. I am all for a name change of the party. Hubert Humphrey changed the name in MN and I was talking to your Dad this morning and he said they did it in ND. The Democrats need to be the party of pro-life because when they are in power, there are fewer abortions. The Republicans will never try and get rid of abortion because that's how they get elected. It's a sham and Christian coffers are getting hood-winked. Republican officials know it's here to stay. Just tell the truth and quit using it as a way to raise money and get elected. Nick, your Dad ran an exceptional campaign and was not afraid to attack the issues. He sure gave me some hope. Thanks for all you have done and don't give up.

  33. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.11.25

    Jeez. Some of you Madizens get up disgustingly early! Today's conversation began at 5:09. That's still night! It's dark yet!

  34. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.11.25

    I'm with Nick too.

    I like the idea of a name change, but I don't think it's simple. In MN the state Democratic Party is the DFL: Democratic Farm-Labor Party. Their policies strongly reflect that cooperation. The Republican Party here tried a name change too, but Independent Republicans didn't stick. Their policies and actions made it clear that Independent Republicans was not accurate. Nobody bought it and MN Republicans have dropped it.

    If SD Democrats are going to change their name, it needs to be a 100%, through and through change if it will have any sticking power at all. What would a new name be?

  35. grudznick 2014.11.25

    Ms. Geelsdottir, you are an elusive young woman, dancing from blog to blog wearing little but your version of the raw truth, but I must ask you as one of your innumerable spurned: Do you think it is the name (color / logo / other superficial bs like our good friend Bill sells for his big bucks) or is it the message?

  36. grudznick 2014.11.25

    Weiland = Kennedy

    I will wait to read that fine post on my good friend Larry's new blog. Where I assume all posts are vetted by the party through some documented yet secret process. Open only to the registered (D)s and the registered (I)s but not the (R)s, (L)s, (C)s or (FU)s of the voting public.

    Lar always was a bit of a snob putting on airs. What with the pipe and all...

  37. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.11.25

    Grudz said, "wearing little but your version of the raw truth."

    How did you know?! Are you following me around?

    I think a name change can help if it is followed up with synchronous action. But a purely cosmetic name change is a waste of time. That's what MN Republicans did and it was a waste.

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