There will be time (and material) for that. But on this glorious South Dakota State Fair weekend, I'm feeling generous. And heck, if I can find things I agree with the Madison Glenn Beck fan club on, I can find good things to say about the Scott Munsterman campaign. I may not know head from hindquarters on winning elections (I've lost two here in Madison, twenty years apart), but on strategy, I see the Munsterman machine making a few good moves:
- Making noise: I've had some interesting discussions with fellow politics watchers (and players!) about the merits of early campaigning. I still wish we could wait until January 1 or even April 1 to have a nice, concentrated campaign when everyone's listening. But if I were Munsterman, challenging two GOP big dogs with better statewide recognition and bigger money, I'd be taking the same tack: pumping out the press releases, touring the state, doing blog interviews, grabbing all the free press I could. Every time Munsterman's name appears in print, even amidst snark from some pinko secular humanist on Lake Herman, he gains recognition and forestalls being relegated to the position of third man in a two-man race. (Heck, criticism from liberal blogs might even help Munsterman raise his stock among the voters in his immediate challenge, the Republican primary.)
- Putting challengers on defensive: Munsterman is laying land mines for his challengers. In explaining how he'll address South Dakota's budget deficit, Munsterman highlights the growth of state government and reliance on reserves under the Rounds-Daugaard administration, thus challenging opponent Dennis Daugaard to either defend or distance himself from his boss. In his missive to the state legislature's Medicaid Reimbursement Study committee, Munsterman challenges opponent David Knudson to defend his indefensible proposal to tax medical services, the very issue that clinched PP's support for the Munsterman campaign.
- Targeting key constituencies: His talk on small schools targets the small towns (and he manages to phrase it in free-market language for the Milton Friedman fans). His interview with Pastor Steve "All Abortion All the Time" Hickey sets off my alarm bells, but it rings the church bell for South Dakota's fundamentalist voters who need the smell of red (herring) meat to draw them to the polls. And heck, Munsterman's drive across the state for a YouTube interview in Wasta on Hubba's House makes a grab for the constituency of Hubba's West River neighbor and hat, ranch, and manly-mustache kinsman Ken Knuppe. It may be early, and a majority of folks may not be paying attention, but Munsterman is giving the opinion leaders in those constituencies who are listening just the right hooks to remind them to mention Munsterman when the primary gets closer.
As I recall, Munsterman sold his practice so he could campaign full-time for the job he feels he is "supposed to do" (I'm listening for the "God told me to" line). Given the magnitude of that gamble, I can imagine Munsterman thinking, "I could hold back, wait for January to campaign hard... but then I'd feel like I didn't give it my all." If you're going to go for something big, you might as well go all out. Munsterman is doing just that, and I commend him for that.