You Just Want To Hug Him!
Disarmingly genuine, Johnson's campaign will go far on telegenics. As to substance, though, he comes up way short. In fact, it's just about impossible to pin this guy down on where he stands on some of the big issues he'll be contending with should he make it all the way to Congress. There's probably a lot of calculation in that politically safe approach, but I doubt it will carry him over the top. Johnson's website boasts of his accomplishments as an elected Public Utilities Commissioner, though all of those decisions were made by the Commission, not Johnson himself. Then there's that four year stint as Governor Daugaard's Chief of Staff. Johnson makes the audacious claim that while serving Daugaard he was "overseeing much of state government." A Chief of Staff doesn't "oversee" government and I'd be surprised if Dennis Daugaard would cede the role of government oversight to what is effectively an office manager with some advisory roles. More to the point, considering South Dakota's feeble economic performance during Daugaard's tenure, I wonder if Johnson's close association with the Governor's office is the asset that he believes it to be.
As to Johnson's stands on issues that matter right now, I don't see much. His interview in the Rapid City Journal last Summer was dismissive toward the agricultural sector in this state, with Johnson saying that "ranchers and row-crop folks don't need a lot" and that "government's not going to make them whole." He completely overlooked the importance of international trade to our state's largest industry and how he would deal with the Trump administration's hostility toward NAFTA and other trade agreements that are uniformly supported by all the major ag groups. On health care, Johnson makes the un-stunning (for a Republican) announcement that he'd "like to have a plan that does even more to empower states." Actually, state-empowerment is already a feature of one of one of our country's largest (to the tune of a half-trillion bucks) healthcare programs, Medicaid. Does Johnson know that when Mike Pence was Governor of Indiana he devised an Indiana-specific plan to expand Medicaid into his state? And that Governor Daugaard did the same here but was stymied by a recalcitrant legislature? States already have the power that Johnson seeks, and it's funded by federal money. He should know that.
Meantime we have major fights on the 2018 horizon whose outcomes will mean much to South Dakotans. At some point Johnson's positions on things like net neutrality, infrastructure spending, the "wall" and other immigration issues will be flushed out and voters will get a sense of who he is. We'll then find out if the boy next door is capable of being our Congressman next year.