Mr. Hendrickson takes a break from baseball just long enough to point me toward official word there will be no U.S. Senate race in South Dakota this year. Mark St. Pierre tried and failed to get enough signatures to run as an Independent against Senator John Thune. Signatures needed: 3356. Signatures filed: 2916.
Worth noting: if St. Pierre had filed under a party banner on March 31, he'd have made the ballot. This year, Republicans needed 2070 signatures, while Dems needed 1213. Start a new party, and you can get the job done with 250 signatures. Of course, you'll need 250 members....
So is the glass half-empty or half-full? St. Pierre failed to demonstrate the ability organize an effective statewide campaign or coordinate it with clear Web visibility the way the Weiland and Howie-nullification lightning campaigns did. St. Pierre had one billboard webpage with one phone number and one e-mail address. This isn't even a matter of money: Blogger and Facebook are free and, at this level, essential. When you don't have the money to get out of Kyle and drive around the state yourself to get votes, you have to put up that online outreach. Targeted e-mails aren't enough: you've got to be online, slurping up Google juice and turning curious searchers into signers and stumpers. Demonstrating an ability to take advantage of that easy and free organizing channel would have moved the chances of a Thune defeat from impossible to highly improbable (and that's progress!).
I wasn't charitable with Howie's failed health care initiative campaign, so I shouldn't hypocrisize and praise St. Pierre for coming close. It doesn't matter if you're short by a thousand signatures or by one: if you're not on the ballot, you can't make a difference.
Nonetheless, it is significant that a shoestring campaign, with no backing from the state party or any major organization, offered people a candidate with little chance of winning and still got 2916 people to sign and say, "Absolutely, let's challenge John Thune." That's a significant amount of voter discontent that the South Dakota Democratic Party could have channeled into some useful energy, had it been up for the fight.
And with a surging Kristi Noem riding the momentum of a primary upset, the South Dakota Dems can use all the energy they can get.
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