Both Stephanie and Hildy fully understand that Federal elections in South Dakota are won in the center, hence why the Congresswoman has been moving to the Center. Hildebrand while his positions are more liberal than the Congresswoman’s, and he desperately wanted to deliver her vote for his ex boss, The President, certainly does not want the South Dakota seat to go into GOP hands in 2010. Thus Hildebrand is taking action to move Stephanie further to the center. Kevin Weiland is acting as his foil. Having a primary allows Stephanie to start campaigning with her Independent message now rather than wait until the Fall [Joel Rosenthal, "Crazy like a Fox," South Dakota Straight Talk, 2010.03.28].
Could the primary get any more X-Filesy? Steve Hildebrand plays Cancer Man, manipulating us Mulder Democrats who want to believe into strengthening the very Blue Dog hand that we want Weiland to fight. In Rosenthal's world, Hildebrand knows we angry libs are a minority even in our own party, and our vocal primary challenge will only provide a backdrop against which SHS can better prove her centrist-Republican cred. (Expect campaign ads featuring Stephanie eating feedlot steak.) In Rosenthal's world, the Hildebrand campaign has whipped up volunteers across the state in less than a week all for a chess game in which we will checkmate ourselves.
Rosenthal at least rejects the notion that Hildebrand is working in concert with the Herseth Sandlin camp to arrange a primary dog and pony show. That would be too much conspiracy theory for me.
But even Rosenthal's main thesis seems a too much of a stretch to concoct a man behind the curtain. I've been arguing that a primary will make the winner stronger, but do professional politicos like Hildebrand believe that? If Hildebrand (along with a fair number of the Dems who have rearranged their schedules to canvas neighborhoods on short notice) is really backing SHS, would he really go to all this trouble? It would seem there are easier and cheaper ways to highlight a candidate's centrist leanings than to manufacture or at least fan the flames of a primary challenge that will cost the favored candidate money.
So you tell me: are we being tricked? Is Hildebrand really part of an Obama plot to co-opt leftist populist (leftipop?) anger the same way Dick Armey and the Republicans are gaming Tea-Beck populist anger to support their political status quo?
Or could it be things are what they are: a lot of South Dakota Dems are fed up with a Democratic Congresswoman who acts like a Republican, Steve Hildebrand backs Kevin Weiland, and we are going to have a straight-up discussion about the direction of the South Dakota Democratic Party.
Occam's Razor, anyone?
p.s.: Evidence suggests a good hot primary is more likely to be good for the winning Dem.