You know. It starts with a W. Wellman, Wetlands, Wilson, something like that. Oh, wait a sec, I've got it. It's Rick Weiland, the Democrat. You know, the same guy that ran for Congress a couple of times back in the '90s. Didn't get very far, but that didn't stop him from trying again. Gotta admire the gentleman's determination. Too bad we haven't got a clue as to why he's running.
I'm kidding, of course, but on the square. If I remember correctly,
back in the mid-90s I gave Rick a max contribution and had him over at
the house to get acquainted with a few folks. Always admired Rick on a
personal level, very easy to talk to, strongly believes in his mission,
loves his home state of South Dakota. Basically a good man. Though I'm backing Republican Mike Rounds in the coming election for U.S. Senate, I'm pulling for Rick to make a competitive showing. I like a hard-fought campaign with a lot of vigorous debate as much as the next guy. It's a great thing for the democratic process. But having just glanced at a chart comparing campaign money gathered up so far (published by my friend Cory Heidelberger over at his excellent and informative blog, Madville Times) I'd say my hopes for a competitive race have dimmed considerably of late. Rounds has about a 7-to-1 in-state (6-to-1 overall) fundraising lead, way disproportionate to the 4-3 party registration edge that Pubs have in South Dakota.
That's daunting, indeed, but despite the numerical registration challenge, Dems have been elected to Congress from this state quite often in recent decades. Don't know that there's any common denominator among that list of victorious Dems in terms of philosophy or background, but one thing for certain, by January of election year, I knew for certain who they were. Play wallflower, they did not. I know the cash-strapped Weiland is trekking across the state, determined to visit every city and locale within South Dakota's borders, a worthy crusade that merits its share of kudos, but the reality of a getting-to-know you strategy means face time in the media, not handshaking with a few folks at the local drug store. Nothing against handshaking and local drug stores, of course, but on the face-time front, Weiland's efforts leave much to be desired.
Rick really needs to go mano-a-mano with the Rounds persona hoping to ferret the man or one of his spokespeople out. There is much in Rounds' record as governor that could be brought into the campaign, especially aspects of it that seem to energize South Dakota Democrats the most, which is what they see as the ongoing, cronyistic nature of the Republicans who run the state in Pierre. Making what Dems see as the "insider-ish" nature of the Aberdeen beef plant fiasco into a campaign issue is a way to get the media's attention. Rounds' response to the Christmas '09 blizzard has also come under fire because of its delayed help for the state's reservations. The poorly conceived and administered SD Certified Beef Program might be a way to demonstrate Rounds' lack of understanding of the state's ranching community. No doubt there are others.
As a Rounds supporter I'm reasonably confident that the former governor can man-up and respond to these challenges, but that's no reason not to raise the issues in the campaign. Much as I like Mike Rounds, I like a full-bore, issues-oriented campaign more. It's good for the voters . . . and of some consequence, it'll be good for Rick Weiland too.