Just got through watching the webcast of this morning's "meet the press" event, which drew all 5 of the GOP U.S. Senate primary candidates to a well-paced and -oganized round robin. Clear standout was one of the "minor" candidates, Stace Nelson, who until now hasn't impressed me much. I saw Nelson in a "debate" in Rapid City last Fall and found him unfocused, inarticulate and too easily drawn to his experiences in the Marine Corps, which he cited endlessly during tangents that drifted far away from the questions at hand. As an old "jarhead" myself, I was more than a little put off by it. Since then he has honed his campaign persona, remaining on-topic throughout. More compellingly, there were even outbursts of passion and charisma that lifted his personality to a level that commanded attention and clearly overshadowed the acknowledged front runner, former Governor Mike Rounds.
As to Rounds, he got on my nerves with that "South Dakota common sense" meme that he must have repeated for what seemed like a few dozen times. Or was that a few hundred? I mean, like, we get it already, Mike. We're loaded with common sense in this state. Everybody knows that, right? Right. For example, we have so much common sense that our governor would never leave his successor with a $127 million hole in the state budget. And there certainly wouldn't be any call to add 1500 employees to state government during the course of two terms. No way are those facts the legacy of a common sense administration, right? Right. Must've been a momentary lapse of common sense that created those lines on your resume as governor, Mr. Rounds, although 8 years is quite a stretch to be considered "momentary." I guess with politics all things are possible. The rest of the field acquitted themselves in a so-so fashion, with Annette Bosworth revealing herself to be somewhat disconnected from political reality by calling for the abolition of the IRS. Ravnsborg was calmly articulate when discussing his view of the federal shutdown, Rhoden somewhat strident in his wish for eliminating direct federal aid to South Dakota's Indian reservations. The extreme positions laid out by Bosworth and Rhoden categorically eliminate them from consideration as credible candidates for the United States Senate. Of the four lesser, for lack of a better word, candidates, Ravnsborg makes the Constant Commoner's cut, as does Nelson, whose feisty provocation aimed at Rounds over the EB-5/Northern Beef Packers fiasco went essentially unchallenged.
I doubt that today's "debate" will do much damage to Rounds' strong front-runner status because I'm guessing that few voters watched it, being on webcam and all. Just the same, it demonstrated that Rounds has clay feet and shouldn't be considered a shoo-in by any stretch as the inevitable stage of intense public scrutiny takes hold. Though his opponents haven't got nearly as much as Rounds has collected in the way of a war chest, money alone doesn't guarantee re-election in a small, word-of-mouth state like South Dakota. Ask Stephanie Herseth, whose nationally financed re-election campaign was upended by the little known Kristi Noem a few years back.