Can Scyller Borglum make a nice guy finish last? Senator Mike Rounds made his career on being ‘South Dakota nice.’

With today’s announcement, freshman Republican State Representative Scyller Borglum has thrown down the gauntlet to try to do something that no one has ever been able to make Mike Rounds do before:  Cause the former State Senator – Governor – US Senator – to finish in anything less than first place in a political contest.

Agree or disagree with Mike – and most South Dakotans know him as Mike and not by his title – in eight election cycles no one has been able to defeat him from the right or the left.

In his very first election, Mike faced a primary challenge from Kent Bowers of Pierre and won with a commanding 62.7% of the vote (a 25.4% lead).  When Mike first ran for Governor, he won a three-way primary with 44.34%, which was nearly 15% over his next closest competitor Attorney General Mark Barnett. And when he ran for US Senate in a five way primary, he won with a commanding 55.5% – a tremendous 37.3% vote lead over his next closest competitor, the now Lt. Governor Larry Rhoden, and his highest primary advantage to date.

Suffice it to say that Representative Borglum has a daunting challenge ahead of her.

When Senator Rounds first ran for Governor, his primary victory was attributable in part to the fact that his competitors – AG Mark Barnett and Lt. Gov Steve Kirby – tore each other apart. And it was not just a little. There were commercials that are still legendary in SD politics for their tenor.

The effect that they had was that they demoralized each other and destroyed their opponent’s base to the degree that South Dakota voters were looking for a viable alternative. And Senate Majority Leader Mike Rounds was viable. His messaging was always personal and heartfelt, and made a connection with South Dakotans. And his unwillingness to attack his opponents has defined him.

In state politics, Senator Rounds has become the epitome of the quality that we might call “South Dakota Nice,” and has generally eschewed the harsher side of politics.

It’s worked to his advantage. And in at least one instance it worked to his disadvantage. Rounds shied away from taking the bark off of opponents in the general election race against Rick Weiland, Larry Pressler and Gordon Howie in 2014, and found numbers moving in the wrong direction for a couple of weeks when national ad buys had started to pound on him.

But he pulled through that difficulty, and won with a twenty point margin.  And he’s remained in high standing with South Dakotans ever since. Especially among Republicans.

Herein comes the difficulty for Borglum in trying to come out on top in a race against Mike Rounds.

I’ve written before about the power of incumbency, and it’s especially applicable when it comes to Mike Rounds. When people decide to vote for a candidate, it’s a conscious choice to select one person over another, and people identify with the winner. To move numbers against an incumbent, you have to convince people that they made a bad decision.  You have to convince them that the choice they made a few years ago was wrong.

How many people like being told they were wrong? Not many. Do you like being told you’re wrong?

When getting people to vote out an incumbent, you have to have the ability to make a clear and undeniable case to get people to overturn their prior decision.  And the better they know the candidate, the better they like the candidate, the tougher it gets.

Here’s the problem for Scyller. She will have to mount a campaign to convince Republicans that the US Senator that our collective psyche has been imprinted with as being a nice guy – who won with a 37.3% point lead in his first primary race for US Senate – is now unworthy of the office, that we made a bad decision when we elected him with those overwhelming numbers, and that he should be limited to one term in the US Senate.

That’s going to be a terribly difficult task.

Tough to argue he’s been there too long, with one term. The people he’s made mad don’t vote for him anyway. Rounds has generally been supportive of the President.  Plus, I’m hearing Rounds is on track for another $600,000 financial quarter, giving him about $1.5 million in the bank to counter whatever narrative Representative Borglum is going to be promoting against him, at the same time she’s trying to raise money.

Further working against his Republican challenger, is that now with a primary opponent, Rounds’ estimated $200,000 a month of fundraising is going to just increase as the campaign can finally state that he actually has an opponent, and can make the case that he actually has an election he needs to raise money for at this point.

We’ll see in the coming weeks and months what issues that Representative Borglum will pull out to try to dent Mike’s image and convince voters that they voted wrong in 2014, and that she’s the alternative that Republican voters need to choose, and that Mike Rounds needs to finish in second place for the first time in his political career.

Convincing South Dakotans that the man voted in more than once as South Dakota’s nice guy needs to finish last? That might be a tough challenge, indeed.

39 thoughts on “Can Scyller Borglum make a nice guy finish last? Senator Mike Rounds made his career on being ‘South Dakota nice.’”

  1. Scyller will run a wholly dirty ad campaign and lose miserably. Poor girl is being manipulated. She has no accomplishments to stand on so all she can hope to do is diminish Mike’s good name, which every other has failed to do. It’s going to be a short and ugly race, just like Scyller’s political career.

    1. The only people who want her to do this are the paid consultants who will collect whatever money she raises. They are manipulating her ambition and she either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care.

      1. She isn’t from SD and neither is her campaign team. She is young and foolish, but ambitious. She is the perfect meal ticket for her out-of-state campaign team. Her reality is going to catch up with her quickly.

  2. Give the woman some credit. She’s not being manipulated. She knows exactly what she is doing.

    1. Common sense would suggest otherwise. Astoundingly poor judgement on her part.

      1. You mean “commonsense.”

        (For some reason, all of her campaign stuff combines this into one word. Which may not be wrong but it’s weird.)

        1. Common Sense means nothing. Everyone claims they have common sense. Common sense would be more like… ya know, not writing a hitpiece about being “interrogated” and “Intimidated” by a nerdy ginger freshman congressman and his 100 lbs female political employee for absolutely no reason and with no sustainable evidence or witnesses. Common sense would be building up a portfolio and actually accomplishing something in office instead of running for higher power your freshman year. If you’re going to be this idiotic, perhaps she should think twice about running on the grounds of “commonsense”. She’s a joke and her campaign will be a scar on SD politics.

  3. Aside from the obvious advantages of incumbency, name recognition, and access to money, to my knowledge, unlike other South Dakota politicians, Senator Rounds has never publicly undermined President Trump.

    1. But in not doing so he HAS undermined the Constitution. To be fair. I know what you’re referring to and Dusty made the right move. I really liked your campaign and I think you did a good job shining light on issues people didn’t want to talk about, but I’m glad Dusty won. I want someone smarter than the President, not a Trump copycat.

  4. From the Rapid City Journal on April 29, 2019:

    “Regarding her future ambitions, Borglum said in the Monday news release, “I haven’t confirmed or announced any run for a higher office. I’m not even thinking about that.”

    In an interview Monday with the Journal, Borglum said she does not plan to run against Rounds or Johnson in 2020 but is considering running for re-election to the Legislature.”

    Clearly she was lying…

    Even more questionable is how she treated Dusty, though. Can’t trust her and won’t be voting for her.

  5. welcome to the race Dr. Boz… er, Scyller.

    Love how she plays up the Borglum name, of which she is no relation to the famous carver. Almost but not quite as shameless as Matt McGovern who changed his given and commonly used name so he could run for office in South Dakota.

    I’ll be interested to see if she comes up with millions of Facebook followers like the Boz did. 🙂

      1. The prominent placement of Mt. Rushmore on her logo is (arguably) meant to imply a connection to the sculptor. Granted, it is implied and she could deny that.

  6. It sure looks like running against Sen. Rounds really backfired on Jason Ravnsborg and Larry Rhoden. This is clearly a long play move. Ambitious republican decides to enter a likely no-contest race against a popular incumbent, uses the campaign to build statewide name-recognition and strengthen the donor base. Throw out a ton of red meat on the campaign trail, get on the radar, and come back in a future election cycle with a significantly stronger campaign for a lesser statewide office.

    1. All we need now are Stace Nelson, Gordon Howie, Lora Hubbel, Chad Haber and a few others to announce to run for the same seat.

      1. Those fellows, and Ms. Hubbel, are all insaner than most and fit in with this Dr. Borg, but what would really be neat-o is if Dr. Boz came back to run Dr. Borg’s campaign and be in all the speeches with her. Can you imagine?

    2. That strategy might have worked but she’s clearly going for blood which they did not. Think more Stace Nelson and less Larry Rhoden.

    3. Ravnsborg and Rhoden actually have accomplishments and experience in the political realm and are lifetime South Dakotans. Scyller is just reaching for power and cash.

        1. I think most of his adult life has been in South Dakota, Ravnsborg I mean; not just a couple years like Borglum.

          Rhoden has been here all his life

  7. And in other news, my 60 year old father is planning on signing with the Minnesota Vikings as quarterback. He figures his chances are as legitimate as Borglum winning an statewide primary against a popular incumbent.

    1. yeah but it is the Vikings, don’t their QBs act like they are over the hill already 🙂

  8. Anon 410 makes a good point, and the difference is this – Larry Rhoden and Jason Ravnsborg didn’t go on the attacks against Rounds. They both have bright futures and proved that losing isn’t a terrible thing if it’s handled right.

    This reminds me of when Liz Cheney primaried Mike Enzi and realized soon that she couldn’t win.

  9. Before her mishandling of the run up this announcement, I would have said she had a 0.5% change of winning a statewide primary. I think chances have improved 100% now. Let me think, that means she has a 1% chance if winning. Truly, that is probably generous.

  10. Questioning how Rounds squeaked by in 2014 was real catchy, especially since skyler didn’t even live in SD at that time.

  11. I went to the Sioux Falls announcement which was sparsely attended (less than 5-10) other than staff and press. Sioux Falls Legislative candidates have bigger turnouts.

    She is either really really dumb or has really stupid people working for her because you only get one announcement to introduce yourself: Nobody local (she didn’t even introduce her “local family” that was in the backdrop with her) or with gravitas to introduce her. Virtually no presentation of her credentials or experiences to serve at dog catcher much less US Senator. Passing mention of agriculture. Took implied, inferred shots at Senator Thune and Governor Noem to add to her rumble with Congresmman Johnson. In her attempt to tie herself to President Trump she used immigration as an issue when Senator Rounds is in the top 2 or 3 Senators carrying water for the President on this issue.

    I now drop the Over-Under to 10% and $100,000 raised.

    You just cant make this stuff up.

  12. Troy I’d put over under at 18% Hubel even got that against Daugaard and Haber got that against Jackley!

    1. Fair point. It was an early consideration of mine. However, I saw (or didn’t see) intangibles which will suppress her support. She didn’t even work the room yesterday (before or after).

  13. Rounds has never undermined Trump. He’s with him more than Thune or Dusty. This is a long play for her that will end in a fiery political career death like Dr Boz. This is a case of a crappy human being from out of state convincing her she’s the next big thing. She clearly won’t be. I expect a Trump endorsement of Rounds during the primary.

  14. So who are all these people telling her to challenge Mike Rounds? Who is telling her we need more young women in politics?
    Is she really listening to the voters or to the voices in her head?
    The donor list will reveal a lot; this will be one interesting campaign finance report.

    1. She has 3 months to fundraise and then either 2 weeks or a month to report it…so by Mid-October we should know if there is any money raised and from whom.

      We will also know how much Sen Rounds has raised for the 2nd quarter soon as the deadline for contributions was June 30.

    2. I doubt anyone is telling her to challange Rounds. It’s her own desires that motivate her. She perportedly traveled around the state to discuss rural education, and according to the story reported on PBS, had people urge her to run for US Senate. I believe this is deceit, as is much of the story she weaves. It will be interesting to see if she brings any serious rural education bills during session. Her success during session will also be a good guage of the respect she commands from her fellow legislators.

  15. A dude by the name of James (Jim) McCintosh is the orchestrator of all of this according to various political circles. He’s an out of state guy who was political director for Kristi Noems Gov campaign. Did she put him up to finding a recruit? If so, Rounds should come back and challenge Noem in a primary for her second term 🙂

    1. If you are no longer paying your paid consultant they are no longer loyal to you or willing to do your bidding, I cannot imagine why Noem would care about Scyller enough to help her in any way. McIntosh simply found a new state he can get paid in.

      1. Kristi no longer has anything to do with these people from what I’ve heard in Pierre. Also, I thought that Justin Brasell (Brazell?) Was her campaign director and McIntosh worked for him? I didn’t follow her race too closely… So… does this mean a Freshman Legislator from another state… with a campaign team that is all from other states… is running in a SD Election against Mike Rounds who is one of if not the most accomplished and likable politicians in South Dakota? And they think they will win? What do they take us for?

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