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Sunday, March 28, 2004

Herseth and the Blogs

A while back I wrote this post on "Herseth's Risky Fundraising Pitch." I questioned whether Stephanie Herseth, Democratic candidate for the at-large congressional election in South Dakota to fill Bill Janklow's seat, was wise to be sending one message to her potential constitutents and another to liberals in the rest of the country from whom she hoped to raise money. The "pitch" in questions was this Daily Kos message from the South Dakota Democratic Party's Ben Hanten. Here's a passage referring to the FMA that I quoted back then:

I'm still disappointed that she said, "I agree with the president on this issue." But I also know that I'm not a single, pro-choice woman running in an extremely conservative sate. I also can envision the advertisements with little kids saying, "Stephanie Herseth is against our family."

This isn't California or Florida, after all. It's South Dakota - we're proud of regressive taxes, paying our teachers $19,000, Citibank and corporate agriculture. Outside of Sioux Falls, people may not even know a single gay person!

South Dakotans would sooner lynch Hillary Clinton and Diane Feinstein than ever elect them. Stephanie Herseth has managed to be a good progressive without being labeled too liberal.

At the time, I wondered whether it was perhaps unwise to be painting such a caricature of the state, lest voters there take offense. And the South Dakota Politics Blog agreed with my assessment, which was nice to see, considering my relative ignorance about state politics.

That's all by way of introduction to this Kos post that ran on Friday and was approvingly linked by Atrios. It pointed to a story in the Aberdeen News headlined "GOP criticizes Democratic House candidate's Internet fund-raising." Kos and Atrios are correct to poke fun at the GOP's calling the blogads Herseth's "secret" Internet page, which clearly it is not, but I think they miss the larger point: that Herseth is running a two-faced campaign, trying to seem reasonably conservative at home and simultaneously winking at liberals in the rest of the country that she's really on their side.

"There's a reason she's got that secret site. She doesn't want to advertise the fact she's doing this," says Jason Glodt of the state Republican Party in the article. While the site isn't "secret," Glodt's basic argument is still correct.

Herseth apparently has no ads running on any blogs now, but she raised thousands of dollars earlier this year from an ad on the Daily Kos site. She raised at least $21,000 in one day on that site, which features many articles and messages that criticize President Bush and other Republicans.

But after Herseth announced a month ago that she supported Bush when he called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, many people posted messages on Daily Kos saying they would not contribute to her campaign.

Herseth in February released a statement that said: "I agree with the president on this issue. Marriage should be between a man and a woman."

After critical comments were posted on Daily Kos, her campaign released another statement to the blog, saying Herseth believes the issue should be left up to the states to decide under federal legislation or the ratification process for constitutional amendments.

In short, Herseth is trying to play both sides of the issue to get votes in state and money to run her campaign from out of state, and she hopes that no one notices. Glodt wants the amount of money raised from the blogads released, and so would I if I were running her opponents' campaign. Then it would be easy to say that Herseth is really a liberal using moderate's rhetoric and that her true loyalty will lie with her out-of-state financiers than with her in-state constituents.

As I wrote previously, this is a difficult tightrope the Herseth campaign is trying to walk to remain both reasonably progressive and electable in a conservative state.