… maybe — at least, that’s what I heard.
Actually, it’s slightly better than that. I actually know this much:
Friends of Sam Hurst — the former network TV news producer, short-lived buffalo rancher and current independent filmmaker — are encouraging him to run for the U.S. Senate next year.
They’ve been talking about fundraising, which is especially essential in this instance. Hurst is a former Nieman Fellow who, as far as I can see, does not have notable masochistic tendencies. He’s astute enough to require some assurance that he’ll have a pretty good pile of dough before he takes on the campaign challenge.
He doesn’t need to believe he can win. He needs to believe he can afford to take the plunge without deep financial damage, and with enough money to run a respectable campaign.
There could be some answers coming before long. Hurst is tied into a group that has produced professional polling in recent years on a variety of public-policy issues. And there is some talk among the Hurst group about doing some polling to find out where Thune might have weaknesses and how Hurst might be able to exploit them, if he is the Democratic nominee.
As one of his friends said: “I’d raise money for Sam just to see him debate Thune.”
Hurst would be a formidable debate opponent, even as a pronounced underdog in a Senate race. Whether he would connect to South Dakotans on a wide scale and be perceived by likely voters as more than a Democratic bomb-thrower is unclear.
It’s also wise to remember that being sharp and edgy and articulate doesn’t necessarily translate into being a good candidate. But then, Hurst is smart enough to understand that.
It’s no sure thing, of course, that he would be the party nominee. He’s a West River Democrat in a state where the divide between East and West defines itself at certain times, on certain issues, and — it seems — in recent years within the Democratic Party. The power, such as it is, is over east. The deepest angst is out west.
It wasn’t just in the Stephanie Herseth Sandlin debacle in 2010 that South Dakota Democrats proved that a house divided against itself cannot stand — uh, itself, or much of anybody else, for that matter. But the failure of support for a proven party winner over a couple of touchy issues is a hard-to-forget example of the party’s entertaining-but-self-destructive Blazing Saddle redux: “OK, anybody moves, and the Democrat gets it!”
The Democrat got it. So did the Democrats.
Herseth Sandlin played a big role in her own fall, of course, by isolating herself and refusing, it seemed, to engage in meaningful reconciliation within her party. But the party did more than its share. And if you’ve got a winner and like winning, it’s really the party’s job to generate support, in order to keep winning. Isn’t it?
Instead, 2010 really led to the complete and total Republican takeover of statewide elected offices in South Dakota.
Hurst, who has never run from a controversial opinion, has made some insightful-but-edgy evaluations of the state of the party in South Dakota. They stung. This is a wounded party, after all, with a clear and abiding memory of injuries sustained and perceived attackers, particularly those who come from within.
So there’d be some fence mending to find unity, if Hurst could beat whomever the party finds over there east of, say, Iona (a dividing-line community carefully chosen by the Politics in KELOLAND campaign-coverage team just in case Billie Sutton runs, although the team doubts he will this time) to run.
Last time Thune ran, the Democrats found — OK, let’s stop and count — nobody to challenge him.
They’ll do better this time, because I’m almost certain they will have a candidate. Or two. And Hurst could be in the mix.
Depending on the money, and the divide — and maybe a bit of polling.