Tuesday next is decision day for South Dakotans of the Republican persuasion. Seeing that I’m a bit of a red-headed step-child, I do not get to directly participate in the selection process. Nevertheless, in the grand American tradition, I am still permitted to provide a few thoughts on how matters look from where I stand.
First, allow me to say that I’m not carried away with any of the choices which we currently have. This does not mean that I think them all worthless or anything of the sort. Rather, it means I find no standout, no “I absolutely must vote for that person” person within the group.
A brief aside on the topic of Heidepriem and Arndt, if you will. I can say little more than what has already been said by others: it would seem that while this is indeed an historic occasion, the combination is far from magical. Mr. Arndt is a Republican with no ties, that I’ve been able to determine, to any local or state Republican leadership. As far as I know, he’s not held public office (though that might be a plus). His wife’s father seems to be a big Heidepriem backer and having Mr. Arndt on the ticket will make the funding of the campaign much simpler for Mr. Marshall than would otherwise be the case. I’ve little doubt that Heidepreim and Arndt will run well, but I think it improbable that the current tide of public opinion will reverse itself in time for the election to see the first Democrat governor in a very, very long time.
Taking the Republican candidates in alphabetical order, I find the following:
- Dennis Daugaard — Simply put, Mr. Daugaard is sitting in the catbird seat. As the current Lt. Governor, he has a huge advantage in name recognition. Further, he appeals to those who do not actively dislike Governor Rounds. The number of folks who think our current governor has done an alright job is fairly high. While Daugaard would put his own stamp on the governor’s office, it is probable that he would do the least to change the current direction of the government–from the people in positions of leadership to the programs and projects which would receive funding. He would be, in my opinion, the apparent “safe” choice for an electorate which is traditionally leery of change. At the same time, “safe” is not usually what one needs in the midst of a growing crisis.
- Gordon Howie — The man who claimed the Tea Party title has been struggling with getting past his negatives: family, finances and focus. His recent selection of Kermit Staggers as his running mate, should he win the nomination, was a good calculation from the standpoint of joining East and West River. However, if Mr. Staggers was seen as a polarizing figure in the recent Sioux Falls election, Mr. Howie has far outstripped him. At present, Howie has the largest polled negatives of any of the Republicans. While he brings many good ideas to the campaign, he has struggled to stay focused on what is necessary to win the goodwill of a sufficient number of people to vote for him and has instead chosen to fight many skirmishes which have detracted from his other efforts.
- Dave Knudson — As current majority leader in the state senate, Mr. Knudson has an extensive track record which can be examined. As a result of this examination, it is apparent that he is striving to place himself in a much more conservative light than is borne out by his voting record. He has made some interesting choices, particularly as casting himself as the man who can fix the problems in Pierre. He is, after all one of those who has contributed many votes to putting the state in the way of those problems. To his advantage, he has one of the better political organizations behind him. He is perhaps the most polished politician in the running.
- Ken Knuppe — If there is a maverick in this race (God bless Mr. McCain), it is Mr. Knuppe. As the individual with the least direct experience in government, he is probably the one most likely to make some necessary changes. However, his appearance and presentation have turned off voters who have bought into the idea that a governor should somehow have more poise and polish. It is of benefit to note that Mr. Knuppe is the most libertarian of the current slate and so holds the greatest appeal for West Riveronians who value their space and their freedom more than they desire absolute security.
- Scott Munsterman — As a former mayor, Mr. Munsterman benefits from having time in public office, but not so much time that he has done nothing else. His time as a chiropractor has proved very beneficial in allowing him to connect well with people. He has worked diligently on the name recognition and appears to be making headway in that regard. To me, he is also the person in the race who is the hardest to know what he would do in the governor’s office. He is not nearly so steeped in politics as some of his competition (as noted above) but my concern is that his desire to care for people would tend to lead him in the direction of encouraging the government of the state to care for citizens rather than to provide them with an environment in which they can best care for themselves.
My rather brief treatment of each of the candidates should not be taken for more than it is: my perspective. This perspective includes all of my biases and preferences, including the ones which leave me in the political limbo of my very own Independent’s Day.
If you should ask which of these men I would support were I able to vote in the primary, I do not know how I would answer. The answer might well be different based on whether I was supporting someone because that person seemed least likely to take the state in a poor direction or because that person was most likely to avoid an upset in the general election. I’m guessing that your answers might vary based on similar criteria.
Who will actually win the nomination? We’ll find out soon.