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A Tale of Two Campaigns
Mar 5, 2014
I will eat my hat and yours if South Dakota's U.S. Senate race becomes a battle between Rick Weiland and Annette Bosworth. Weiland's path to the Democratic nomination appears to face no obstacles other than his gathering the requisite petition signatures. Bosworth's only route to victory in the crowded GOP primary depends on Mike Rounds getting indicted over EB-5 and her not getting indicted for raffle fraud.
But Bosworth and Weiland offer an instructive study in opposing campaign strategies. Both candidates are mixing different traditional campaign strategies with new social media strategies. But they are pursuing very different courses in trying to reach and build a South Dakota base.
Weiland is taking his message straight to South Dakotans. Since July, Weiland has been touring the entire state, vowing to visit every town in South Dakota ... twice. Just today (March 5) Weiland launched an eight-day, 57-town tour with morning stops in Platte, Dallas and Wood. He's doing a town hall in Martin, then looping through the Black Hills and all of West River.
Weiland's campaign team regularly posts notes and photos of his peripatetics online. Weiland is taking advantage of social media to document his travels and engage his supporters. Jumping on the suggestion of a Bowdle backer, Weiland crowdsourced (one of those fancy new Web words, meaning getting a bunch of people to do stuff for you) a video montage of regular folks all over the state saying "I met Rick!" The video is hokey, homey, grassroots fun. In a minute and change, this social media clip captures both the techno-with-it-ness a modern campaign needs and the "I am South Dakota — all of South Dakota!" message a candidate must project to win in this state.
Annette Bosworth started her campaign with a similar but "exploratory" tour of the state in June. Since officially entering the race, she seems to have scaled back her travels. Bosworth has made a few forums and other public events (most recently, she was spotted seeking signatures at the Sioux Falls Sportsmen's Show). But Bosworth has spent less time working the cafes and front porches and more time working the Web. Her social media accounts offer an endless barrage of conservative hot-button blurbs targeting a nationwide audience for online "Likes," contact info and donations.
Bosworth is mining that nationwide market for support with old-fashioned direct mail. Working with the well-known Washington direct-mail firm Base Connect, Bosworth has engaged in a nationwide mailing campaign that uses a massive GOP mailing list and arguably predatory tactics to raise money. Bosworth's strategy earned her an impressive $315,314 in the fourth quarter of 2013, more than Rick Weiland, Larry Pressler, and every other Senate candidate besides Mike Rounds combined. Most of that money came from out of state, from folks who won't be around to sign a petition or vote for her. Bosworth's strategy cost her serious overhead: 81 percent of that Q4 take is already obliged to debts she owes to Base Connect and the folks sending her team's beg letters and doing other work for the campaign.
Bosworth is betting on big spending to distinguish herself from the primary crowd. Weiland is happy to take your money, but he's more likely to ask you for that money face to face, here in South Dakota.
Bosworth thinks she can buy your vote; Weiland is trying to earn it. We'll see whose strategy South Dakotans buy.
Editor's Note: Cory Heidelberger is our political columnist from the left. For a right-wing perspective on politics, please look for columns by Dr. Ken Blanchard on this site.
Cory Allen Heidelberger writes the Madville Times political blog. He grew up on the shores of Lake Herman. He studied math and history at SDSU and information systems at DSU, and has taught math, English, speech, and French at high schools East and West River.