OPINION — Notes from the past few months as the 2022 campaign paraded past …
In my column on Kristi Noem’s potential as a national figure, I downplayed her chances as a running mate, noting she comes from a reliably red state with just three electoral votes. Why would a presidential candidate need her?
A friend with a good memory and an appreciation for history noted other running mates from states with low populations and already-determined status were selected.
In 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney, a former Wyoming congressman who was then living in Texas. Wyoming is among the most conservative states in the country, and Democrats have almost no chance in an election there. Cheney, a former Defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush, had been asked to screen potential running mates for the younger Bush, and he recommended … himself. He re-registered to vote in the Cowboy State to avoid a potential conflict that may not permit candidates from the same state to serve on a national ticket.
Sen. John McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008, not to secure the frozen state’s three votes, but because he hoped she would fire up his Republican base.
In that same election, Sen. Barack Obama tapped Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, despite the fact that The First State would support the Democratic candidate no matter who ran with him.
So, the fact that South Dakota will vote for the Republican candidate in 2024, and 2028, and on and on and on into infinity, shouldn’t ruin Noem’s chances of being tapped for the VP slot.
While Democrats took another hit on Election Day, it also was a very bad night for The SDSU Poll.
The nonpartisan survey released a poll on Oct. 11 reporting a close race for governor.
“Overall results: Our data show Gov. Kristi Noem with a lead of 4% over rival Sen. Jamie Smith, which is roughly the same difference as in the 2018 election. Considering the margin of error for this poll is 4%, this race is indeed quite close.”
Well, maybe it was close then, but on Nov. 8, Noem won in a landslide, 62% to 35% for Smith, with Libertarian Tracey Quint getting the other 3%.
Ian Fury, who served as Noem’s campaign spokesman during a break from his state job performing the same function, threw shade on the SDSU Poll during the campaign.
I contacted him after the election, offering him a chance for a victory dance. Instead, he advised me to focus on Gov. Noem’s victory speech. But on Nov. 9, he did tweet a note of triumph.
“Good morning to everyone except the people who believed ‘The SDSU Poll,’” Fury wrote.
Hey, he had every right to do so.
The SDSU Poll was correct on ballot measures, saying Medicaid expansion was well ahead and recreational marijuana was slightly behind. Both races ended just like that.
I am glad we have the poll from my alma mater, and look forward to more surveys from it. I bet even Ian will check them out, if he is still working in South Dakota.
Sure, the 2022 election just ended, but let’s take a sneak peak at 2024 and 2026. It’s what political junkies do, so let’s get a fix.
The election two years from now will be much more low-key. South Dakota will vote Republican for president, it’s safe to assume, since we have done so every election since 1968.
The only major statewide race is for Congress, with Rep. Dusty Johnson likely seeking a fourth term. Will Democrats finally be able to field a candidate against the Republican?
They should get to work now — and check their social media accounts first.
The 105 legislative seats will be on the ballot. The minority party needs to make some progress in filling a few more seats in Pierre, and the best way to do that is to actually run in more districts.
The 2026 election could be more compelling. Noem can’t run for a third term as governor — unless that law changes — and if she is still around, would she be interested in a return to Washington, D.C.? Is Sen. Mike Rounds, who would be 72, want a third term? Is there some room for a primary challenge?
Will Billie Sutton run for governor again, especially with the job open? He ran the closest race any Democrat has for decades. Marty Jackley, who sought the office in 2018 but lost to Noem in a contentious primary, is the clear GOP frontrunner.
Johnson likely would be up for a fifth term. Maybe he will get a strong challenge some day. But he surely is fine without that, as he awaits his turn in the Senate.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jamie Smith wept openly on Election Night. Losing hurts.
I have seen it up close many times over four decades of covering elections. A candidate devotes months, even years of their lives to a campaign, and to lose, especially by a large margin, hurts.
I have seen candidates and their key advisers drink away their pain. Others get quiet and the pain, anger and frustration plays across their faces and in their eyes.
On Election Night 1980, Sen. George McGovern was in a cold rage after he was drubbed by Congressman Jim Abdnor. I witnessed it up close, as McGovern delivered a fiery speech about his defeat, vowing to form a liberal organization to combat the rising conservative tide.
But McGovern instead wrote books, delivered speeches, owned and managed a hotel, ran for president in 1984 — and almost did again in 1992. He left South Dakota for years, living outside Washington, D.C., in Connecticut and in Montana, where he owned a bookstore, before returning to his home state in his final years.
All the while, the Republican Party grew stronger in South Dakota, as we saw again on Nov. 8.
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