The primary elections are over, two people have been charged with criminal misdoings, and a lot of people are excited over what has to be one of the strangest primary seasons in my middle-aged life. (Okay, maybe excited is the wrong adjective.) I know many people have begun the review of the primary entrails, but I would like to offer a few ideas for political junkies to think about before turning on Fox News or MSNBC.
The GOP Senate Primary in several NUT shells.
Mike Rounds won and fairly big. This is the headline that the Mike Rounds will publicly display. "Look, the vast majority of Republicans love me," he will say. However, he needs to remember that he only received 55% of the 31.9% of the Republicans that cared to show up. The means he really can only claim that about 17% of the Republicans vocally support him despite spending over 2 million on this race and has been in the running since November of 2013.
Mike Rounds was running against a hyper-polarizing candidate in Stace Nelson, a guy that people could only remember and knew for his bull commercial in Larry Rhoden, a doctor that stopped practicing medicine and has now been arrested on multiple counts of fraud and perjury, and some guy from Yankton that may or may not be part of a grand conspiracy. Taking into account all of this, Mike Round still only received 17.5% of the registered Republican votes.
This should give the Rick Weiland campaign some hope. Rick will not be able to outspend his opponent, but there are 13,000 people that bothered to vote for Stace Nelson, that will probably stay home or vote for Howie.
Congrats to Wismer, but there needs to be a lot more work.
Susan Wismer beat Joe Lowe rather convincingly; more than I would have predicted. With almost 11% points more than Joe, Susan can fill confident and strong in the run-up with Daugaard, right? Sadly, no.
While the Republican primary numbers were somewhat low, the Democratic numbers are anemic. The Democratic turnout was at only 17.3%. (When you look at the SOS website, you will see 11%, but that includes Independents. The 17.3% is taking only Democrats into the calculation.) While there is no way to tell how many independents showed up, if you take just the number of Democrats registered in our state (175,125) and assume very few independents actually voted, you can see troubles for the Dems. Less than 20% of the Democrats registered bothered to vote. This is a serious problem. If a the number of independents did vote, then it means that even a smaller percentage of Democrats actually came out and voted.
I will admit that I voted for Joe. Representative Wismer was lacking a little in personality and specific focus during the various debates viewed on-line. I figured that if Joe was going to win, he needed to drive more people to the polls on Tuesday. This would be a good thing. Start getting the Democrats that are still breathing to find a little passion. Obviously, this did not occur. Too many Democrats were sitting at home and many probably had no idea that there was a primary going on a couple of days ago.
If Susan Wismer wants to hope to break 35%, she is going to need to start doing what Weiland is doing and begin hitting the highways looking for independent voters. I hope that Mrs. Wismer will start practicing strong language on the campaign trail. Every time she speaks about Daugaard, there cannot be weak statments of "I am not sure what we can do about that." She must offer clear, bold, and focused attacks followed by concrete plans.
Primaries should be about getting the base excited about the parties opportunities for success. A good hard fought primary should increase the number of voters that are driven to support his or her candidate. Neither victor can claim that after the primaries. Mike Rounds may get some of Larry Roden's supporters to rally around him. That guy from Yankton may be able to talk the few people that voted for him to "like Mike." He will not get many Nelson supporters or Bosworth voters.
And for Wismer, she needs to find a way to get the Democrats to actually show up.