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The Scarlet 'D'

It’s hard out here for a Democrat.

Sep 13, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 48 • By JOSEPH BOTTUM
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Noem’s stands on the issues are pretty standard-issue conservative—strongly pro-life, hardline on support for the military, against gun control—with a little Tea Party tinge to her rhetoric on economics (although, in response to ads targeted at senior citizens, she’s recently announced that she opposes privatizing Social Security). And Herseth Sandlin is a pretty standard-issue centrist Democrat who voted, for instance, against the enormous health care bill this year (although, the Rapid City Journal has reported, she kept a potential challenger out of the Democratic primary by promising secretly that she would not vote to repeal the bill).

Campaigning back home, far from her Washington haunts, Herseth Sandlin has already tacked about as far to the right as she can possibly manage. It might not be enough to save her. Do some traveling across the state, from Edgemont to Sisseton along one diagonal or Buffalo to Elk Point along the other—miles of broken country to the west and flat prairie to the east. And what you’ll learn is that there’s one problem Stephanie Herseth Sandlin can’t talk or wiggle her way out of: the “D” that follows her name. 

Kristi Noem would make a good, conservative congresswoman, but if she wins, it will be in large part because her state can’t bring itself to vote for anyone on the Democratic ticket this year. If South Dakota is a bellwether, a synecdoche, and a marker, November 2 will be truly abysmal for the Democrats. Just when you thought the tide had slipped out about as far as it was going to, out it slips some more. 

Joseph Bottum, a native of South Dakota, is editor of First Things and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.

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