Home > SD 2014 Ballot, South Dakota > Noem and Robinson leave a lot to be desired after first debate

Noem and Robinson leave a lot to be desired after first debate

August 19, 2014
Corinna Robinson and Kristi Noem in US House Debate at Daktoafest. Photo by Ken Santema. (sorry for the quality, was having camera issues today).

Corinna Robinson and Kristi Noem in US House Debate at Daktoafest. Photo by Ken Santema. (sorry for the quality, was having camera issues today).

Today was the US House Debate between incumbent Republican Kristi Noem and challenger Corinna Robinson in Mitchell at Dakotafest. I would say it was a pretty underwhelming debate. Last week I asked Robinson if she was ready for the debate with Noem. Part of me feared she would be intimidated by her first public debate. Perhaps instead of worrying about whether she would get stage fright, I should have asked Robinson if she would bring it to Noem and focus on issues that align with South Dakota voters. And Noem.. well, I still don’t think she is a good candidate from a libertarian standpoint.

Overall I would say Noem said what she had to in order to ‘get by’. Robinson never brought it to Noem. If Robinson had done that she may have gained ground with Noem on the defensive. But as it was Robinson didn’t seem to understand her audience, or how to unify talking points during a question.

The following is my thoughts about the two candidates responses to each question. Since there was no true debate, I didn’t feel the need in this post to contrast the two candidates. Video of the event is available on the Argus Leader website.

Opening Statements

Both candidates had opening statements that were full of the usual fluff. In Noem’s opening statement all I thought worthy of mention is the fact she spends a  lot of time fighting against a President and Senate that don’t understand rural issues. I agree wholeheartedly with Noem on that issue. The only addition I would make is the House of Representatives. I don’t see anything that makes me believe the House understands rural issues either.

Robinson’s opening statement didn’t have much content either. But her noteworthy statement wasn’t a good one. When speaking of retiring from the military in 2004 then becoming a civilian public servant at the Pentagon she said that she “feels comfortable being in DC”. I don’t think that was a good move. Most South Dakota voters I know don’t want elected officials that feel comfortable in DC. I think she meant she would be able to navigate the political culture there and actually get things done. But it didn’t come off that way to me or some other audience members I spoke with.

Why are you running? The candidates were asked why the are running.

Robinson mentioned she was waiting until all four kids had graduated to run for office. She has always been intrigued by the challenge of the office. In addition she believes it is bad that fewer laws have passed in recent years than in the past. I am going to have to disagree with Robinson on that last item. Many of us believe too many laws is what has gotten the US into a bloated bureaucracy.

Noem is running because she feels her job is not done. She mentioned fighting against the EPA and their new land grab through the Clean Water Act (CWA). It is hard to really believe Noem cares about the overreach of the EPA. She didnt’ care about the overreach of the NSA last year, so what makes her suddenly care about this issue? Other than the fact it is what voters want to hear. Noem also mentioned Congress needs to take its oversight of the Department of Agriculture serious. There is a fear that the USDA could in fact try over-stepping their authority in implementing changes in the farm bill. Maybe she can be trusted on that issue, she is after all fighting the new food regulations passed down by the USDA.

Rural Landscape? This was a tough question asking the candidates how they would keep the rural landscape in South Dakota.

Most notably Noem said that good farm policy is needed so food is cheap enough for consumers. That very stance shows Noem is not a true believer in the free market, at least not the free market that impacts the constituents in attendance at a farm show such as Dakotafest. I will agree with her saying that the US spends too much money helping other nations. Sadly the statement was made as a way to show it was too hard for her to get money for local farmers.

Robinson – Robinson took some almost shots at Noem here. She mentioned that someone can’t just go to DC, show up, and take notes. That was a direct slam at Noem. But she never makes that connection by saying her name or really following up on it. Robinson said SD doesn’t want a free handout. Then she blasted Noem (indirectly) for wanting to strip SNAP benefits from the farm bill. Somehow she ended this portion with low pay for teachers. Robinson was so random it would be hard to come away with a coherent message.

Infrastructure? A question about the federal highway trust fund..

Robinson went off about her job at the pentagon and national security. I’m not sure if she actually heard the question. Or at least she wasn’t successful in trying to twist a question to one of her talking points.

Noem stated that SD receives more in federal dollars than we pay in. It really annoys me when Republican candidates act proud of this fact. A good conservative stance would be to handle as much locally as possible. On infrastructure Noem mentioned a bill that had passed the House which would have tied highway funds to oil retrieval. According to her such an approach would have funded the roads long-term. The bill in question is one of hundreds that Senator Reid won’t allow to be taken up in the Senate. It is also worth noting that Noem mentioned she was a strong supporter of the Keystone XL Pipeline, and received loud clapping having said that.

EPA Regulations? The ability to operate versus the regulations of the EPA.

Noem opened by saying farmers do want to take care of the land. I wish more politicians and DC bureaucrats would acknowledge the fact that farmers are not the enemy of the earth. I’ll give Kristi a Kudos on that. Noem went on to say that the EPA has a role in regulation, but that “this EPA” has gone beyond what it should do. Going back to the CWA, Noem mentioned that “prairie potholes” shouldn’t need permits to be farmed. Hopefully Noem truly is ready to fight against the EPA on behalf of her constituents. It likely is going to be a tough battle and those fighting it cannot be wishy-washy.

Robinson really dropped the ball on this one. She came out saying EPA standards are necessary. She only slightly backed from that position. Then Robinson went on to say South Dakota should try becoming a model for other states to follow by trying to adopt changes. That was taken quite poorly by the majority of the crowd. I wonder if Robinson forgot she was at a farm show with an audience full of farmers…

KXL? Keystone XL Pipeline.

Robinson came out against KXL because it is not in the long-term best interests of South Dakota. She would prefer wind and solar to be looked at for the future. Robinson also mentioned the following KXL points:  jobs created are not long-term, the pipes used for the pipeline are poor quality, it will destroy aquifers, and the price of US oil will not go down. She rightfully mentioned the oil is getting pipelined down to where it can be shipped to China. Robinson makes some good points actually. But she was in a crowd that didn’t want to hear any of her points, so I don’t think it was well received.

Noem had already come out in support of KXL. She touted a house bill she voted for that would have removed the President as an obstacle to the KXL implementation. She mentioned three years of studies hadn’t changed anything. Noem mentioned the pipeline could bring tax dollars to the state, and therefore bring the state more tax revenue for schools and roads. She also said pipeline is the safest way to move oil, especially when compared to rail and trucks. Finally she mentioned KXL as a national security issue and somehow tied that to having an ISIS flag on the White House. Noem said the KXL is something that should be done now, and received clapping and cheers.

A big part of me wished either candidate would have at least noted the improper use of eminent domain to secure land for the pipeline.

Ethanol? There were a couple of ethanol questions.

Robinson supports ethanol production. Not really a drastic stance to take…. But then she said ethanol shouldn’t have to compete with big oil. There is where Robinson leaves voters such as me behind, asking for more market intervention.

Noem said that as a farmer she had invested in ethanol. I’m not sure how that was really relevant. She went on to say the EPA has actually changed the RFS to reduce the amount of ethanol produced in the US. No legislation was passed to make that change. Instead Noem noted that “Obama’s EPA” decided to do it on their own. She used the term “Obama’s EPA” a couple of times during the debate. I think it was a smart move on her part.

Too Big To Fail? The candidates were asked if there were any government programs too big to fail.

Noem said everything should have to stand on its own two feet. But she went on to say that national security cannot be allowed to fail. She called on her inner war-hark to say that we need boots in other countries to stop bad people before they bring the fight here. This is a huge problem I see with Noem, and many other Republican candidates. Earlier Noem had stated we should not be sending subsidies to other countries, but here she is saying we should intervene militarily. Military interventions almost always lead to subsidizing those same countries. It just amazes me the connection is never made.

Robinson actually did worse on this question. She said government will never fail if both parties would come together. She tried to make that case that we should be proud of our big government. I don’t think that was a winning talking point with the crowd.

VA? I knew there would be a VA question.

Robinson said giving more money isn’t the answer. Good, something I agree with. She then made the case that more auditors are needed. She also tried to make the case that somehow it was OK for certain VA employees to have lied because they were the same employees that were on furlough? That was odd. One, it ignores the problems at the VA existed long before the furloughs. Second, wrong is wrong!

Noem mentioned the Black Hills VA healthcare system is one of the worse in the nation. She is happy with a couple of leaders that have recently stepped down, but thinks there should be more held accountable. Plus, I’m not really sure someone ‘stepping down’ is the same as being held accountable. She mentioned how the VA representatives came to her hearing last week with no answers. Noem also said that the VA system needs a culture shift that must start with leadership. If being forced to “step down” is the worse that is going to happen to VA bureaucrats, I’m not sure what their motivation will be to create a culture change.

Obamacare? A question about the repeal of ACA.

Noem said some ACA flaws cannot be fixed. She therefore would vote again to repeal Obamacare. Quite often Democrats will use the talking point that Republicans have tried over 50 times to repeal or replace ACA. Noem rightfully mentioned that seven of those bills passed the Senate and were signed into law by the President. Then she touted something I have supported for years: allow health insurance to be sold across state lines. If states like SD want to truly reduce healthcare insurance costs, that would be the way to do it. Finally Noem said ACA is not a good fix because it causes more money to be spent on healthcare with people getting less actual healthcare in return. Nobody in the crowd spoke up when Noem asked if anyone didn’t have their premiums go up.

Robinson said ACA is a good thing that was “a long time coming”. She actually said she wants to stop any discussion of repealing it. Further she stated the Governor of South Dakota prevented people from finding out how good ACA is. Wow, all of those talking points were very poorly received by the audience. I guess they didn’t want to hear a candidate say she is unwilling to discuss a topic and that voters don’t understand something because of the Governor.

Farm Bill? What does or doesn’t work in the farm bill.

Robinson just focused on why it had to take so long, especially with Noem on the farm committee. This was a missed opportunity for Robinson. She could have shown some knowledge about the farm bill. As it is, she looked like she was avoiding the actual question.

Noem touted the many parts of the new farm bill she likes, and helped to author. Some of the areas mentioned: spending was reduced, eliminated direct payments, livestock disaster program, pine beetle exceptions for permitting, and research grants. Noem said the biggest challenge with the farm bill (other than passing it) would be the implementation and keeping the Department of Agriculture in line. Noem wiped the floor with Robinson on this question.

Closing Remarks

Noem and Robinson really didn’t say much here. Robinson should have used this time to drive home the point that Noem is a poor legislator. I don’t think that happened.

  1. Roger Cornelius
    August 19, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    Ken,
    I couldn’t go to bed without thanking you for the excellent analysis of the “debate”.
    Corinna is proving to be a real disappointment and with not many debates, has blown a real opportunity to call Kristi out.
    Many Republicans I know are not satisfied with Kristi over the delayed farm bill, the government shutdown, wasting repeated votes on repealing Obamacare, and her continued obstructionist policies.
    Corinna is clearly unprepared on so many issues, too bad really, she is very likeable and shows strength.

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