Thursday, August 2, 2018

About That Billie Sutton Poll....

I distrust internal polls, so I ignored the Democratic candidate Billie Sutton's tweet that announced Representative Kristi Noem's lead in the gubernatorial race was within the margin of error. I ignored  Sutton's emailed press release with the bold print announcement that indicate Sutton might have lead if voters are given information about both candidates.
When balanced profile information about both candidates is presented, Sutton takes a 6 point lead (48% Sutton / 42% Noem / 11% undecided). emphasis in original]
I smiled and did a "from your lips to God's ears" prayer when I read Dakota Free Press's enthusiastic post about the poll results.

But then, this tweet from political forecaster Harry Enten came across my feed. Enten claims that he was told in 2017 that Sutton was a candidate to watch. I became a bit less skeptical because Enten's job is political forecasting. As an aside, Enten  later tweeted a picture of a business card that he got from the conference with his note about Sutton handwritten on the back.

Later, friends forwarded a link to an article entitled "Billie Sutton Will Not Be Out-Cowboyed." The title comes from conversations the reporter had with Democrats at two Sioux Falls events:
At both events, I meet dozens of loyal Democrats, most of whom clearly identify as far to the left of Sutton, but I'm unable to find anyone who's particularly perturbed by the candidate's more centrist positions, even on abortion or guns. They like his education plans. They like his chances to win. They are realists about the political make-up of the state where they all reside, and no one outside the campaign is wholly confident of victory. "There's nothing as brutal as a Wednesday in November," one supporter remarks wryly, remembering years of Democratic defeat. But she's optimistic. At least no one is going to out-cowboy Billie Sutton.
Before one gets to that paragraph, however, there's a report about a newspaper publisher who declared his support for Sutton after decades of supporting Republicans. The anecdote looked familiar as it should have. Dakota War College had covered the same article. In that post Pat Powers took issue with the newspaper publisher and opined that a brief mention of Obamacare might prove problematic for Sutton. Powers did not, however, challenge the article's conclusion that Noem will have to do more than ride a horse and demonstrate that she can shoot a gun to defeat Sutton or that economic issues might turn the race.
That line of attack, though, isn't going to work well against Sutton, the former rodeo rider. And, as the summer wanes, it seems likely that the race will shift to bigger economic factors. President Donald Trump's global trade war is affecting core South Dakota products like corn, beef, and especially soybeans. Soybean prices have fallen 16 percent in the last few months. If a blue wave hits the prairie, it will be because of frustration about global commodity prices linked to foreign retaliatory tariffs.
Powers, a connected partisan, rarely misses any chance to dismiss Democrats' chances in a South Dakota race, so it seems odd that his response to the conclusions about Sutton's chances or Democrats' optimism was subdued.

Finally, there's yesterday's news that the South Dakota Republican Party intends to sue to keep Constitution Party candidates off the 2018 general election ballot. It's a move that seems too heavy-handed by half. In fact, it smacks of fear. The Constitution Party, which has only 489 registered members, resembles a circular firing squad more than a political party. Republicans apparently fear  the loss of some social conservative voters who might find the Constitution Party appealing more than they fear looking like a high school bully kicking a kindergartner.

I remain doubtful that enough South Dakota Republicans will end their infatuation with Kristi Noem and vote for Sutton even though Noem's political career is a case study for the Peter Principle. The South Dakota Republican Party, however,  through its actions and inaction leads one to believe that the Sutton poll might be more accurate than a skeptic might have thought. 

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