Daugaard still searching for route to the Land of Trump

This just in from the office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard on his decision on whether to endorse Donald Trump.


I’m not sure what that Zzzz thing means. But last I heard from the governor’s staff regarding an endorsement, Daugaard wasn’t there yet there.

“There,” of course, is the Land of Trump (which some might argue is farther from Eden than the Land of Nod), and an endorsement that Daugaard has wished he could avoid and clearly has delayed making.

That leaves him on a bit of an island of inaction hereabouts. After all, Kristi did it. Mike did it. John did it. So did Vladimir and Kim Il.

OK, OK, I threw in the presidents of Russia and North Korea (that’s ETERNAL president to you, buster, if you happen to be in North Korea!) for my stepson, Padraic, who needs a lift after feeling The Bern begin to subside under all that cold, Hillary Clinton water.

He’s an avowed Sanders man, and he dislikes Hillary as much as his mother likes her. But he doesn’t dislike her enough to vote for Trump.

When pressed, Kristi Noem, Mike Rounds and John Thune fall back on the, “Well, at least he isn’t Hillary” response to defend their Trump endorsements. And there is a big difference between Trump and Hillary, starting with the hair. Hers is pretty nice. And his? Well, I miss the David Letterman nights, and all those comments about “that thing on Donald Trump’s head.”

A Democratic friend of mine said months ago that for Trump to win the GOP nomination, he’d have to change his hair style. So, that’s another way Trump has confounded the experts.

But the state’s Republican congressionals do have a valid argument for Trump, from a Republican perspective, in that the crucial U.S. Supreme Court nomination has potential impacts that help them overlook the odious behavior of the man who could make it, for the Republicans. And it’s possible that Trump might also do some government downsizing, although going smaller never seems to be in Trump’s character.

And the latest news on Hillary’s private email server gives the South Dakota congressional gang of three a bit more cover for their “anyone-but-Hillary” chorus – even as many national GOP leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, slam Trump for a stunning comment about an American judge who happens to have Mexican ancestry.

I’ve liked Ryan better and better throughout this process, as he reflected the good sense and reason that I still believe lives at the core of the Republican Party.

Far from the Land of Nod, and Trump.

Which is where Dennis Daugaard would like to stay. But can he? How long can he avoid speaking the words I believe he dreads: “I’m with Trump. Gag me.”

OK, OK, I added the “gag me” part, which he might feel but never say.

Because, no, he isn’t with Trump. That’s obvious on his face and clear inside his carefully chosen words when asked about the brash billionaire and when, if ever, he might endorse him.

Weeks ago when I asked him in the lobby of a Custer State Park motel, he glanced wistfully out into the pines and mumbled that he was wasn’t there.

I doubt he is yet, even though I’m sure that he, like me, waits and hopes for Trump to grow up. He is, after all, trying to be our president. Should he succeed — and given the events of the last six months, we’d be foolish to rule that out — I’d like an adult in the room when critical adult decisions are made.

It would be nice to see some policy specifics, too, although those pesky specifics can get in the way of a good campaign rant, especially for a guy who obviously just hasn’t been paying that much attention to national and international events, to say nothing of other incidentals, like the U.S. Constitution.

Dauggard would love to see some signs that Trump is worthy of his endorsement. Trump could start by shutting up once in a while, by sticking to a prepared script written by skilled writers and strategists, by pretending, at least, that his heart is as big as his ego, and by showing some respect for the process and office he wants to win.

That would make this whole thing a lot easier for Daugaard, who is perhaps the most self-reflective governor I have covered.

I check in on the governor and impending decision from time to time with his son-in-law chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen (Yes, son-in-law. And  I’d like to resent him over it, except that he does his job so well…).

Yesterday Venhuizen had nothing new to report. That meant Daugaard, who also has a delegate’s role in the Republican National Convention this summer, was still avoiding what might be the inevitable for a Republican governor from South Dakota. It’s tough to hide from this one. Trump just cruised past a decimated primary field of opponents —  suspended campaigners Ted Cruz and John Kasich were the only other GOP names — with better than two-thirds of the vote.

When I spoke to Daugaard last month, he noted that as a delegate to the national convention in Cleveland next month he is bound by party bylaws to vote on the first ballot for the candidate that wins the state primary. A second ballot is unlikely, of course. So expect Daugaard to cast his delegate vote for Trump, whether he has publicly endorsed him or not.

Lori Walsh asked me on public radio yesterday what Trump’s 67 percent win here meant. After I finished hyperventilating I said I wasn’t quite sure. Obviously, the fact that he already won the nomination was a factor. And he is the Republican candidate in a state that hasn’t gone Democrat in the presidential election since the beagles, and the  Johnsons, were in the White House.

Many Republicans seem to hate Hillary, for reasons of fact and fiction. And many seem to believe Trump could be the agent of change Washington, D.C. needs.

And, sadly, some like Trump’s message and style overall. I love this state, and believe in its people. But some like everything Trump says and does, because they do and say those things themselves, and love seeing it all on a national stage.


Not Dennis Daugaard. Not even close. What I know about him and what I saw in his eyes and heard in his tone, if not his words, last time we spoke was abhorrence for the way Trump behaves, many of the things he says, some of the emotions and actions he inspires.

How does a man with personal convictions against such things stand up in public and endorse Donald Trump?

Weakly, painfully, I’d guess, and with hesitation and a sense of sadness, when the times comes — if it comes.

He’s not there yet.


Posted in Politics In KELOLAND.


  1. And therein lies the reason Mr. Trump has the nomination. He IS NOT establishment nor a career politician. He is NOT on payroll of taxpayer. He has NOT been spending or overspending taxpayers dollars on programs that end up with more questions and body bags. Yes Governor Daugaard may not yet have endorsed the nominee but in delaying the inevitable he has shown he is part of the problem and he must take responsibility for his role in raising up the current “Trump train”. Go Donald.

  2. There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy in those who jump on the Hillary or Trump wagons after pillorying them previously. Perhaps Daugaard has more principles than I assumed. We now know that Thune, Rounds, and Noem are all about partisan politics above anything else.

  3. Let’s start with the Trumpster…a man who is and has been only for himself is not the right person to lead this great nation. His ideas and statements have no depth much like the banter we hear from the side lines during a baseball game on the South Dakota prairie. You know,”Hey batter, batter, swing batter, batter”, amusing but not worth much.
    E-mails Hillary secured on a server that did no harm and had no evil intent.
    How about our congressmen and congresswomen releasing their e-mails and our governor
    and while we are at it yours too Kevin. We are South Dakotans if something smells fishy we check it out. Don’t take someone else word for it.

    • Tom: Well, even Hillary admits she was wrong to use the private server. I agree there’s no evidence of a serious security breach. Which is the important thing. But I think it’s legitimate to question her decision-making on the email thing, and also the way she has answered some of the questions about it. I’m not aware that any of my emails were classified. Although you raise an interesting point: How often would a member of our delegation be handling a classified email? Thanks. KW

  4. Guess I and many other South Dakotans were right about the Trumster. Now the SD delegation wants to distance themselves from him. They sacrificed their own values to support him. Now the whole lot wants Trump to step aside and allow Pence to take his seat. Too late in the game for that. Our delegation’s only real objective is for a movement that could result in a November victory for the Republicans not that they have a “new” epiphany about Trump and his actions.
    Thune, Noem, and Rounds plus our Governor should be embarrassed.

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