Date of this Version
Published in Great Plains Research 19.2 (Fall 2009): 248.
Historian, political operative, and blogger Jon K. Lauck offers an insider’s account of the 2004 United States Senate race in South Dakota. Democrat Tom Daschle, leader of his party in the Senate, sought reelection and was challenged by Republican John Thune. Lauck seeks to explain Thune’s surprising victory—or rather, as the account unfolds, Daschle’s bitter loss. As is the way with insider accounts, this one produces some striking insights, but is also somewhat limited by its perspective.
Daschle in 2004 struggled, as Lauck puts it, with “the LBJ dilemma”—how to lead a liberal party in Washington while campaigning back home in a red state. On issues such as the war in Iraq, the prescription drug bill, abortion, and gun control, Daschle sought to satisfy conflicting expectations and, too often, said one thing in one venue and something else in another. As a National Rifle Association officer observed, “You can’t have it both ways.” The contradictions inherent in Daschle’s double life attracted the unwanted attention of “consistencyscrutinizing bloggers”—one of whom, it should be noted, and a partisan one, was Jon K. Lauck, whose weblog, Daschle vs. Thune, dogged the Democratic candidate.