Previously, I listed 18 different factors that were important in the outcome of this Senate race. I've re-listed them below with additional elaboration and more links and I've added 8 more factors to be considered:
(1) POPULISM: We're still a populist state in many respects, i.e. we question cultural and economic elites and their lifestyles. Daschle's mansion and Jaguar hurt him in this respect, as did the fact that he was the biggest recipient of Hollywood money this cycle. Also, to the extent you subscribe to the "too big for his britches" theory, that is essentially a populist throw-the-bums-out sentiment.
(2) DASCHLE's ADS: Forget about the misleading nature of some (think of Daschle's COOL ad here, which was completely untrue) for a moment and just think about their quality. They weren't great. And that hunting ad was simply terrible. Hunters, the target audience, thought Daschle looked ridiculous. And it's amazing how LONG the Daschle campaign ran the ad. The ad seemed to reinforce the "phony" charge (as the comments to the Argus/KELO Mason-Dixon poll indicated).
(3) THE POLITICS OF AVOIDANCE: In any battle, it's nice to have allies. And Thune could rely on Bush, talk radio, the internet, Guliani, Mrs. Dole, and others, or at least not have to avoid them. But Daschle was basically alone. He wasn't playing up his connections to Kerry, Howard Dean, Michael Moore, and Daily Kos, four defining figures in the Democratic establishment this year. He had to avoid them, which is hard to do as the titular head of the party. Who Daschle did or didn't hug also fits in this category. "Huggate I" and "Huggate II" involved Daschle's denial that he hugged Michael Moore and Daschle's ad of him hugging President Bush, his chief nemesis in recent years.
(4) CLOUT: This was Daschle's only argument. And it wasn't that compelling, especially when he's in the minority in a Republican town. But let's just say Daschle was no Karl Mundt or Francis Case, who could point to two interstate highways, a massive dam system, and other big projects. When Daschle ran an ad saying he got some money for the Brandon library, it almost made him seem smaller or less consequential. And if Daschle was so powerful, where's the ethanol bill, the neutrino lab, etc... Also, remember that Daschle ended up in being criticized by the Mitchell Daily Republic last spring when one of his ads made it seem that Mitchel Vo-Tech was promoting him when he actually voted against a final bill that helped them. Also, Daschle's claim that he was instrumental in the state's distance education program also blew up on him when 50-some state legislators said the state had a lot more to do with the program than Daschle ever did.
(5) DEBATES: Thune did extremely well, it seemed to me. And Daschle had to play defense. And he looked weak always trying to find a reason why he couldn't debate. But more than anything, it confirmed that Thune was a very strong candidate with a command of all the issues. Note Rapid City Journal reporter Kevin Woster's comments on the RCJ blog:
Thune really emerged as a tough candidate in the debates. He did better than I expected, starting with the first debate under the big tent at Mitchell. And he more than held his own with Daschle facing questions by Tim Russert.
I think you could argue that Thune really became senatorial in those debates. They shaped him for voters in ways the millions spent in advertising couldn’t.
(6) ABORTION: Despite what Denise Ross might say about the Daschle campaign's failure to "manage" this issue better for the candidate, there's simply no avoiding the NARAL and Emily's List work that Daschle did, especially when the "In His Own Words" ad featured Daschle going on about choice being "sacred ground." Remember that last winter the legislature voted to ban abortion in the state. As other emailers have noted, Daschle's refusal to answer a reporter's question about whether he was pro-choice then elevated the issue beyond the confines of his position on abortion to one about his duplicity on the issue, confirming the line of criticism about him saying one thing in DC and another in SD.
(7) DASCHLE'S BASE: Some of the independent polls showed Thune winning as much as 18% of the Democratic vote (while it was probably less than 18%, Daschle simply couldn't afford to lose Democratic votes). Some of this erosion probably has to do with cultural issues, one imagines. But one also wonders if some of Daschle's traditional voters stayed home because of his hugging-Bush ads. Let's face it, one thing many base Democrats don't like is President Bush.
(8) DASCHLE REPUBLICANS: Johnson won 20% of Republicans in 2002, but Daschle only won 18% (according to the only exit poll that I've seen on the race). If you do the math, that means the Republicans voting for the Democrat declined from 40,000 down to 36,000. Also, after the accident Daschle either wouldn't or couldn't rely much on his relationship with Governor Janklow.
(9) HISTORY: More generally, one could say that history caught up with Daschle. The abortion issue is the perfect example here--he told ministers in 1986 it was "murder" but now he's on the NARAL/Emily's List team. If one looks back at 1986, Daschle was pro-life, anti-gun control, anti-income tax increase, and pro-balanced budget amendment. He changed on all these issues in 18 years. His old history came back to haunt him. The chickens came home.
(10) EAST RIVER RURAL COUNTIES: If you look at the numbers East River, Thune won some counties he didn't in 2002 and cut his losses in a large number of small rural counties. In my home county of Lake, Thune's vote went up from 41% to 44%. In neighboring Moody, his vote went from 38% to 41%. And on down the line. He also lost Minnehaha County by 1,000 votes less than he did in 2002. He actually won Codington and McCook, which he lost in 2002. All the reasons listed above could account for the better showing in these counties. I visited with an editor in McCook recently who he thought the "It's time," "Daschle is out of touch," and moral issues helped Thune in that county.
(11) THE CORN CROP: My relatives and friends who farm in Lake and McCook counties say they will probably have their best corn crop ever this year. My research into McGovern's first win in 1956 and Daschle's first Senate run in 1986 indicate that Corn Matters, i.e. when the farm economy is shaky it helps Democrats.
(12) FUNDAMENTALS: Daschle said on NPR a couple of years ago that he was a "dedicated liberal" or something like that (something he never said when he first ran for Congress) but he said in his book that most South Dakotans are conservative. Well, I think he was right on both counts. Those two warring facts hurt him.
(13) LAWSUIT: The filing of Daschle v. Thune on the eve of the election based on the weak testimony of one Deaniac about such matters as aggressive "eye-rolling" did not impress many South Dakotans. Could it have been decisive to 500 or 1,000 fence-sitters? Perhaps. It was all over talk radio the next day.
(14) GUNS: This is related to Daschle's ridiculous hunting ad, but deserves additional emphasis. Daschle got an "F" from the NRA while his fellow Democrat Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth had their endorsement. That contrast hurt, especially when the NRA reminded voters in the final weeks with ads about the "F." They also noted how, in the past, Daschle said he opposed all gun control. So this factor relates to Daschle's liberal votes in recent years, the "gone Washington" argument, the "say anything necessary" to win sentiment, and, once again, the chickens.
(15) HERSETH: As noted above, she didn't help Daschle. In addition to guns, she supported the flag burning amendment and the gay marriage amendment, both of which Daschle opposed, creating a contrast that didn't help Daschle (Senator Johnson also supported the flag amendment and opposed some gun control measures that Daschle voted for). There was also a poll last summer showing that 25% of voters were also less likely to vote for Daschle because the SD delegation was all Democratic.
(15) INDIAN VOTE: While Daschle got 1,000 more votes in Shannon County, home to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, than Johnson did in 2002, Thune more than doubled his vote from 2002, from 248 to 564. His 6 trips to Pine Ridge helped, as his vote went from 8% in 2002 to 13% in 2004. Thune's vote in Todd County, home of Rosebud Indian Reservation, went from 19% in 2002 to 21% in 2004. While Daschle won more raw votes than 2002, Thune showed some respectable gains percentage-wise. Noting the extra votes Thune won, the AP said "If Thune had received those 628 extra votes two years ago, he already would be a senator. Johnson defeated him by 524 votes statewide." There was another story from the AP about Daschle's efforts on election day in Pine Ridge, where he was hoping for 60% turnout with the help of radio broadcasts from Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, and Jesse Jackson, what one observer called a "Democratic takeover" of the airwaves. Actual turnout was 57%. That Daschle did not call on Kennedy, Clinton, and Jackson until election day highlights the Politics of Avoidance, i.e. Daschle didn't trumpet their support until it was too late for the press to make the connection.
A commentator on the Rapid City Journal blog also noted the following about Thune and the Indian vote:
Add this to the list: the “jump shot factor.” Indians have historically supported Thune at a greater margin than other Republicans running for office in Indian country. In large part, that’s because they’ve seen him. He’s not an Indian, doesn’t pretend to be an Indian, but was born and bred in that shortgrass country that had him shooting jump shots in every Indian gym in the State. And well.
That counts for something. Republicans all too visibly shudder sometimes around Indians, as Diedrich so often did. A fish out of water. Not Thune. The “jump shot factor” peeled enough Indian country votes, maybe a difference of a typical Republican (10 per cent), up to twenty-two, twenty-three percent in places that’ve seen him play. That’s the “jump shot factor,” I think. You connect with Indians, they’ll vote for you. More often than not, Thune’s jump shot connected and he became a star. Thune’s kind of connection counts for something in Indian Country, maybe a little more than in some other places. In any event, his shortgrass connections served him well in Indian Country, if only to the tune of peeling back the percentage normally enjoyed by Democrats.
I tend to agree with this. Thune had a very warm welcome at the basketball game he hosted on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation last spring. And he spent lots of time in Indian Country, including 6 visits to Pine Ridge. When was the last time the GOP had a campaign office in Pine Ridge Village?
(16) BLOGS: There have been lots of emails about the impact of blogs on the race. A University of South Dakota political science professor said after the election the blog impact was "huge." And the blogfather, Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, also singled out the Dakota Blog Alliance in a post-election column. Former KELO-Land anchor Steve Hemmingsen also thought blogs had "a lot of clout" in the Senate race. There will be a National Journal story tomorrow discussing this factor too. We'll have to analyze this more in coming days.
(17) WADHAMS: The steady leadership of Thune's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, was also critical. He has received enormous praise for his work.
(18) GIAGO: Denise Ross of the Rapid City Journal noted the Giago factor in one of her post-election pieces:
When Daschle met with Indian newspaper publisher and would-be Senate candidate Tim Giago in April, the Daschle campaign let Giago make all the public statements about what transpired during that meeting. By the time the two met with tribal and congressional leaders in a closed-door session Sept. 25, buzz that crossed racial lines enveloped the state. People remembered that Giago had intimated big promises from Daschle, and they didn't like being shut out of the Sept. 25 gathering. By then, the buzz drowned out Daschle's assertions that he had not promised Giago anything.
This is one of the stories, by the way, that the Argus Leader systematically ignored, but it did get some attention West River.
(19) WAR: I should have mentioned this before, but issues of war and peace also intruded on this Senate race in a way that's uncommon for SD election contests. In my research on past federal election battles, it is usually a secondary issue at best. The central focus in this race was Daschle's comments on the eve of war, which said he stood by in late 2003. During this race, however, he backpeddled. The GOP Senatorial committee also ran ads featuring Daschle's comments along with similarly bitter comments by Kennedy and Kerry, reminding voters of his comments and his association with the anti-war, or at least critical-of-war, left. That Zogby poll in late October showed that 60% of South Dakotans supported the war.
(20) GOTV: There has been a good discussion on the Rapid City Journal blog about what some see as the holes in the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort but, more importantly, highlighting the successes of GOP GOTV. They got the Pennington County vote out. It was 80% this fall, whereas it was 65% in 2002. Also, they registered 3,000 more voters for this fall than did the Democrats. How effective GOP GOTV was this fall has not received nearly enough attention. The GOP GOTV also relied almost exclusively on South Dakotans, whereas the Daschle camp relied heavily on out-of-staters, prompting recollections of the Deaniac "perfect storm" during the Iowa caucuses, which didn't work out very well. That a Deaniac testified during Daschle's eve-of-election lawsuit hearing also underscores this fact.
(21) OBSTRUCTION: This factor re-inforced other factors, but deserves some attention on its own. Thune used Daschle's activities in the Senate to frame the race. With it he could list the litany of bills that Daschle had opposed which had support in SD. That mid-summer Wall Street Journal editorial entitled "Daschle's Dead Zone," which was re-run in some SD papers and was used extensively in the Thune newspaper ads, also crystallized this issue. Senator Frist's visit also highlighted this factor. One also wonders if certain Perot-ista strains of thought about making our institutions function and getting-the-job-done didn't hurt Daschle because of his obstructionist tactics. Many South Dakotans are pragmatists.
(22) BUSH: Again, this relates to several factors, especially (21). But Bush won by 22 points. Daschle had never had to run a competitive race in a Presidential year and it hurt him. What made it doubly damaging was his position as chief-opponent of President Bush since 2000.
(23) DASCHLE's RUN FOR PRESIDENT: Again, this is related to other factors, but it re-inforced his image as someone who had gone national. And it's Daschle's preparation to run for President which surely prompted the NARAL boot-licking. It also prompted several liberal publications to highlight the lobbying of his wife. Articles from Slate, the Washington Monthly, and LA Weekly were much more stinging than similar articles on conservative magazines would have been. I also recall polls at the time indicating that South Dakotans were not supportive of Daschle running for President.
(24) HUBRIS: Pride goeth before the fall, as they say. And the Daschle campaign was certainly confident. Trying to fix the homestead exemption by getting Mrs. Daschle to sign it (after some scrutiny from Talon News and Roll Call) and not telling people about that little transition probably fits in this category, as does the absence of full disclosure on the Giago meeting, which then triggered differing assessments of the "deal" from the Daschle campaign and Giago himself. Some reporters have told me the Daschle campaign burned up a lot of credibility with these and other incidents.
(25) VICTIMHOOD: The Daschle campaign's constant screeching about "negative attacks" really wore thin. The critical moment may have late August and early September when the national Chamber of Commerce became the first group to really lay a glove on Daschle on the issue of tort reform. The Chamber is about as mainstream and establishment as one can get in many South Dakota towns and there was tons of evidence proving Daschle opposed tort reform, so the Daschle campaign's denunciation of the Chamber's "extremist agenda" seemed extreme itself. When the Daschle campaign then ran ads denouncing Thune's "lies" when it wasn't even his ad and which featured a trial lawyer Daschle had himself touted, it backfired. They overplayed their hand. And it looked ridiculous to many.
(26) MORAL ISSUES: In one of the more absurd moments of the campaign, Daschle started running a TV ad touting his opposition to abortion and gay marriage. When the claims were analyzed, it was clear that Daschle was playing fast and loose with the facts on such claims. More importantly, it gave those issues, which liabilities for Daschle, tremendous visibility in the final weeks of the campaign. Of the 25% of people in exit poll who said "moral issues" were their most important issue, 82% went for Thune.
Well, those are the main factors as I, with a great deal of help from readers, see them. I'm still interested in your thoughts on these and other factors which were important. Again, many thanks to the readers of DVT.