Let's imagine the reaction from the various campaigns to the latest Rasmussen poll on South Dakota's hard-fought U.S. House race:
B. Thomas Marking: 6% for "Some Other Candidate"? Hey, that's me! I suspended my campaign and went up 50%! I am a campaign judo master!
Kristi Noem: I'm up again! Yippee! That's a trend, right? Huh? Statistical margin of error? What's that? Ooooh, stop talking about hard schooly things! Come take more pictures of me on my horsey.
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: I'm gone most of the month doing my job, and Noem can't move her numbers up. Ha! But we should not be tied with this phony cowgirl. We have four weeks, people: let's throw some elbows.
I was less surprised by the Rasmussen October numbers showing Noem at 47%, Herseth Sandlin at 44%, than by the fact that one of my correspondents, Mr. Troy Jones, had just the evening before predicted the numbers would come out favoring Noem 47–45. If he needs it, Mr. Jones could probably drum up more financial business by advertising prognosticative powers like that.
So what do this month's numbers tell us? Noem did pick up support among her own party, bringing previously shaky numbers in the sixties up to par with Herseth Sandlin's 80% in-party. Herseth Sandlin is expanding her lead among independents... but as Mr. Montgomery points out, those party subsamples have bigger margins of error than the ±4.5% for the full sample of 500.
Those in either camp ascribing significance to the numbers will read them this way: Herseth Sandlin flipped the lead in August with strong debate performance and Noem's ceaseless missteps and arrogance on her court record and on policy. September brought Noem a much needed respite where she didn't have to face the Congresswoman, who returned to Washington for session. Noem could play her friendly audiences and look good without Herseth Sandlin around to make her look small and unready.
That's why Noem backed out of the KOTA debate. Noem knows that, when she has to debate the real Congresswoman from South Dakota and not the Pelosi bogeywoman, her scripted message falls flat, and people remember why they like Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. It's not because Stephanie is nice and pretty (and too much of Noem's campaign relies on winning on those characteristics); it's because Stephanie can do the job.
And now Stephanie and her crew have another important job to do: keeping a pretender, a woman who can't talk coherent policy, from usurping South Dakota's lone House seat.
Think of this latest Rasmussen lead as your Indian summer, Ms. Noem. Team Herseth Sandlin is back in town, and they're going to knock the leaves off your tree.
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