Argus rewrites some of their analysis. But it’s still an embarrassing mess, and underlines they have no idea what they’re talking about.

iMonkey computerWell, we can say that the Argus isn’t unwilling to fix their mistakes. At least some of them.

This morning, they had spent some time realizing that, yes, most South Dakota State House races are not single member districts, with a couple of notable exceptions.

Unfortunately, as of yet, they have not admitted that they do not understand the meaning of what being an incumbent is in an office, as they still list a pile of people as being incumbents in offices that they are most assuredly are NOT incumbents.

As I noted yesterday….

Now that we’ve established that incumbent means people who currently hold the office, let’s see how the Argus uses it:

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The problem with everyone they note as an “Incumbent” in this list? None of them actually are.

In each and every instance above, the people they have noted as incumbents are actually House members who are running for a Senate seat.   Yep, Novstrup, Wiik, Stalzer, Bolin, Russell & Jeff Partridge are all House members looking to cross over to the Senate.

Don’t believe me? Click on their names, and see for yourself.

Read that here.

As I go back and correct their work, they’re still calling Novstrup, Wiik, Stalzer, Russell and Jeff Partridge “incumbents.” Despite the fact that they are not serving in those offices. If they’re trying to intimate that they’re advantaged because they are current legislators, as opposed to an actual incumbent, then why wouldn’t they call Kris Langer an incumbent, which they didn’t do here:

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Representative Langer is moving into a Senate race from the House as all of those others they called incumbents. But according to the Argus, that one must not count. Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 8.26.16 AM

And while he’s unopposed, they missed Senator Bob Ewing as an actual incumbent as well. Doesn’t he deserve a little asterisk too?

Their mess of an analysis is full of other inconsistencies as well, but, you get the point. However, a basic lack of understanding of who is and is not an incumbent is only half of this major political journalism FAIL, even after going back and fixing half of it.

The other half of this non-analysis is the fact that they haven’t bothered to do anything more than an extremely superficial review of the races, and why they will or won’t be competitive.

It gets down to opinion and analysis, but aren’t they the big Gannett newspaper with multiple staff members writing about politics, editors, fact checkers and all of that kind of thing?  Aren’t they paid to get this stuff right? Because for all that staff, they’re produced a big pile of dreck.

For example, here’s just a couple of things they’ve completely missed the mark on.


The Argus Analysis….

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Hands down, those who actually know about politics consider this the most competitive race in the state. Both candidates have high visibility in district that has elected Democrats in the last decade. Langer is a good candidate, but Barth isn’t inexperienced.

Barth is a Minnehaha County Commissioner, who ran a congressional race in recent years, so he has good name ID. Langer is a gubernatorial appointee (in 2013) to the House, who with her running mate (Roger Hunt) in 2014 saw both of her Democrat opponents withdraw before the election. As a consequence, she has never faced an opponent, or had to truly run a campaign.

Fast forward to 2016 and she’s facing arguably one of the toughest Democrats running for the State Senate this year, and for an office she has not held. Further complicating things is this district is the downticket House race where we see the return of Dan Ahlers, a Democrat who had held the Senate seat. He is expected to run unusually strong. The combination of Barth and Ahlers will mean Democrats will be energized and concentrating efforts in this district up and down the ticket.

There are bright spots, such as GOP advantage in voter registration, but this District has in recent years proved challenging for the GOP, and they go into it without the advantage of an incumbent who has had to actively campaign.

Langer is a darned good candidate; smart and capable of delivering a win. But Barth is going to be challenging.


The Argus Analysis…..

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This contest is just as competitive as Barth V Langer, and represents another race in which both parties are going to invest significant resources.   Mark this down as another highly competitive toss up.

While I’m certainly not a fan of the doltish Kathy Tyler, she has to be given her due. She managed to win a house seat in that District in the past few years, before being turned out through an expensive undertaking by State Rep. Fred Deutsch. She was also a driving force behind the recent Grant County ballot initiative that put tight restrictions on cattle Confined Animal Feeding Operations in a county which boasts the Valley Queen Cheese Factory.

She is organized, and has allied ground troops in the most significant population center in a district that stretches far and wide.

John Wiik is a House member who has served 2 years, and comes to this race with a 2000 vote GOP advantage. But this District has historically (Jim Peterson and Kathy Tyler most recently) sent Democrats to Pierre despite that fact. And they have always had an agrarian bent to how they like their legislators.

Each candidate’s advantages tend to cancel the others’ out, making this contest a true cat fight. And I guarantee both are going to show their claws and try to draw blood before it’s all done.

That’s my opinion in a couple of races they completely whiffed the bat on. Unlike the Argus’ morsel of analysis, you have to put more information into the equation than just a cursory backwards glance at the voter registration numbers to understand that there’s far more that goes on in these races than people robotically pulling the lever.

Does voter registration play a part? Absolutely, and it’s a good place to start. But you have to look at history, the composition of the district’s economy, and what I consider a critical factor – the demonstrated campaigning ability of the candidates.

How well are they known to the voters? Can they raise money? Do they frivolously spend money? Do they do stupid things? Are they engaged in the race? Do they go door to door? Do they have a clue what they’re doing? Do they have an organized team? Do they have guidance? There are many factors that go into assessing the candidates, and sometimes you’re working off of assumptions that may be proven wrong, or are subject to changes in circumstance.

Those factors can offset or overcome simple voter registration, because it’s never that easy. Never, ever. 

The political landscape is littered with people who rested on those assumptions, and found themselves on election day scratching their head and asking themselves “what happened?”

Which is a good reason not to pay attention to news organizations who can’t get basic facts right, and have no idea what they’re talking about

Update, already?

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Ooooo! I think “I learned them something.”  They’re back at the editing desk today after I pointed out how several people were not actually incumbents. But as you can see, their analysis still sucks.

Why would the House District be competitive because the “District has elected both parties,” yet the Senate is not because there’s an “Established House Representative running for Senate seat?” It also fails to take into account that both Kathy Tyler and John Wiik fall in that category, not to mention ignoring the other factors I’ve pointed out immediately above.

Again, what was I saying about not knowing about what they’re talking about?


2 Replies to “Argus rewrites some of their analysis. But it’s still an embarrassing mess, and underlines they have no idea what they’re talking about.”

  1. Troy Jones

    Pat, I still am shocked this gets past an editor.

    The AP Stylebook uses Webster’s Dictionary as the standard for definition of words. Incumbent: a person who holds a particular office or position.

    I get maybe getting confused that Al Novstrup isn’t the incumbent since the incumbent is Dave Novstrup. But, getting so many wrong is beyond excusable.

    There is a saying: “All dogs are mammals but not all mammals are dogs.” This person is essentially asserting all district-wide office holders are incumbents which is as erroneous as all mammals being dogs. All it takes not to make the mistake is have very basic knowledge with regard to the subject matter.