Spinning Stephanie Herseth's South Dakota Win

The NRCC and DCCC chairmen marched out to assess the aftermath of yesterday's victory for Democrat Stephanie Herseth over Republican Larry Diedrich in South Dakota's special election.

At an off-camera meeting this morning, NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y) asserted that there is no other race in the country where Democrats "have a candidate with universal name identification and a 30 point lead before the campaign begins." Reynolds was quick to stamp out suggestions that Diedrich's loss changes his party's outlook for the November elections. He said again and again that the South Dakota race was about local issues such as a state prescription drug plan and country of origin labeling for meats.

Asked about the reports that Democrats are considering a plan for 2004 somewhat similar to the 1994 Republican "Contract with America," Reynolds said he still believes that House races are best fought from the ground up and not from the top down. Furthermore, he said he doesn't believe that there are any national issues that will allow Democrats to pursue such a strategy, even saying that he wasn't sure if the war in Iraq or gas prices are necessarily national issues yet for such a campaign. He flatly dismissed the impact of presidential coattails (or lack thereof) in South Dakota.

In an afternoon conference call, DCCC Chairman Bob Matsui (Calif.) basked in the glory of his party's second win in a row. He said that the special election could have been held in March, but Republicans (including the Republican governor who set the date) wanted it to be June so they could run a full fledged campaign. Matsui said Herseth's win did reflect on President Bush, and that the President's decision to not go to South Dakota (in a state where he won 60 percent in 2000) showed that Republicans are not exactly enthusiastic about his coattails. Matsui also said that he couldn't tell yet if Diedrich was hurt by voters' opinions on Bill Janklow.