George S. McGovern
152 votes—not bad for a blog poll on an internal election in a state Democratic party that is supposedly broken and licking its wounds. That's more votes than came in for a poll here on the Secretary of State's race that involved Nesselhuf (he won that poll, too, demonstrating the clear misalignment between my eager readership and the general electorate... must expand audience!).
Getting Democrats interested in this party chair race is exactly what Mitch Fargen wants. I heard him on Brookings radio the other day saying he jumped in the race specifically because he wants to generate some excitement by giving people a choice for the office (well, that, and lead Democrats to victory in 2012!). And that's a great idea. Get people excited about the party. Show them we don't have just one or two big-name political families and a thin bench of brave soldiers who get on the ballot because no one else is willing to take the beating of an uphill campaign. Give people something to talk about. And use the election process to help us find the best person for the job.
The interest Fargen and Nesselhuf are generating within the party in this party chair race point toward a strategy we Democrats should follow in 2012: field enough candidates for primaries in every race and every district, from U.S. House and State Legislature on down to county dogcatcher. Give people a reason to pay attention, show up, vote, and buy in to the Democratic brand.
Nesselhuf and Fargen run close in this poll. So does somebody else. A near-third of respondents favor recruiting George McGovern, cited by many as the best historical model of building the Democratic Party in South Dakota (and he is in the neighborhood this week!) or someone else. Pure speculation: I'm comfortable reading that strong "neither of the above" contingent as either a fair number of people open to suggestion... or maybe Nick Nemec clearing his cookies and prepping to challenge the young fellas. ;-)
Nesselhuf and Fargen are both proven, energetic campaigners and fundraisers. Nesselhuf has an edge with experience (more years in Legislature, a statewide campaign) and perhaps a larger personal/political network. Both men will spend the next couple weeks beating the bushes for votes, pitching their abilities and their vision for the party. Having that vigorous conversation right now and getting Dems statewide thinking seriously about the action they need to take to win in 2012 will serve the party much better than an uncontested appointment to the chair. Go get 'em fellas!