Part 7 of the Madville Times' South Dakota State Fair Congressional Debate analysis
The hosts of Sunday's debate—SD Corn Growers, American Coalition of Ethanol, East River Electric and SD Touchstone Energy Cooperatives—gave ag questions the spotlight before turning to other topics. Alas, out of several questions submitted by the packed house, the hosts chose this puffball: What is the most critical issue facing our country, and what will you do about it?
Come on, people. You might as well ask, "What's your stump speech?" or "What's the first paragraph on your website?" Use a debate to ask candidates the unexpected, to challenge their ability to think on their feet.
Oh well. We still got answers. Noem said the national debt. Herseth Sandlin said the economy.
Noem cited the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen to support her case. She said she decided to run in February while watching Congress pas a health care reform bill that we can't afford and that our children will pay for. Noem broke out numbers, saying the national debt has increased 39% since Obama took office. She said Congress should have to operate under a balanced budget requirement just like the South Dakota Legislature. She nicked Congress for failing to pass a budget resolution this year, the first time that's happened since 1974. And for good measure, Noem added that Congress is going into debt passing all sorts of programs that have no benefit for South Dakota. She said the stimulus promised South Dakota 10,000 jobs and instead we've lost 10,000 jobs.
Herseth Sandlin noted that the debt and clean energy are parts of the overall economic recovery problem. She then opened fire on Noem. She said Noem wants to have it both ways. Herseth Sandlin said Noem claims to support wind enegy but criticizes the stimulus, which has created 40,000 wind energy jobs. Herseth Sandlin said Noem blasts deficit spending but used those federal dollars three times to plug South Dakota's state budget gaps.
Herseth Sandlin defended the stimulus as necessary to counter the economy's downward spiral. The stimulus, she said, is about stabilizing the economy and making smart investments. She also challenged Noem's jobs numbers, citing the Sioux Falls Business Journal to say we've added 6200 jobs. Herseth Sandlin said Republican Governor Mike Rounds himself agrees that we've added jobs.
Herseth Sandlin concluded that she has the record on restoring pay-go principles, capping discretionary spending, and finding ways to pay for our priorities.
Assessment: As I said, it's a puffball question, so winning it doesn't add many points. Both candidates mustered numbers and clashed well. Had the organizers allowed rebuttal time, I'd have liked to have given Noem a chance to show her chops in listening and responding to her opponent's comments on the fly. Call this one even.
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