“Battle of the Babes”

Would they ever call a Congressional race between two attractive men the “battle of the studs”?  Alas, that’s what the race in South Dakota between Democratic incumbent Stephanie Hersketh Sandlin and her Palin-endorsed challenger, Kristi Noem, has been dubbed.  Definitely more attention to the fact that both are mothers than you would ever get with two male opponents.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that the story and accompanying photo gallery would be very different if these two candidates were men.  It’s also worth mentioning that, although I would obviously prefer Hersketh Sandlin stay in Congress, her opponent makes a very valid point that is spot-on:

As South Dakota’s lone House member, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D) wants each of her votes to reflect the wholesome, conservative values of this rural rectangle of a state. So she has artfully tailored her record: no on the health-care overhaul; no on the Wall Street bailouts; no on the cap-and-trade energy bill. She’s a proud Democrat, she says, but a prouder South Dakotan.

Still, there is that one vote Herseth Sandlin cast, the aye for California Democrat Nancy Pelosi as speaker, that her opponent has hammered her on.

And this is exactly right.  The Democrats could afford do lose Sandlin’s vote on those issues so she could appeal as an “independent voice” for SD, but the truth is, far and away the most important vote Sandlin takes every two years is voting for a Democratic speaker.  Anything else is a distant 2nd place in comparison.  In truth, our politics would be more rational and accountable if voters appreciated this fact.  If you want conservative policies, you should not be voting for Sandlin no matter how many times she voted against the Democratic leadership.  When voting for Congress, most voters are too easily swayed by these protestations of “independence.”  Especially, in House elections, you really are just voting for the party.  Of course, it many cases, it is in the interest of the member and the leadership to disguise this fact, e.g., the House seat in South Dakota, so it will certainly persist.  Still, I’m glad to see Noem and her allies making this case.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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