It is amazing that at the same time Democrats were failing to find anyone to run against South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, they were actively working to convince a Democrat to not run a statewide campaign for federal office.
Back when Democrats needed votes in the House for the Senate health care bill, many groups closely allied to the Democratic party and the Obama administration threatened serious repercussions for the House Democrats who voted no. One of those threatened was South Dakota Rep. at large Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, who ended up voting no. Kevin Weiland, a doctor who supported health care reform, was recruited as a potential primary challenger. With the law now passed the national Democratic leadership, in the form of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen, put pressure of Weiland to drop his bid for the South Dakota’s House at large seat.
Whether Weiland had a chance of beating Herseth-Sandlin, whether it would have been good for the party, and/or whether the national leadership should have gotten involved are more complex issues. The incredibly stupid thing about this moment is that at the exact same time members of the National Democratic leadership were trying to talk Weiland out of a state-wide run for federal office in South Dakota, they were completely failing to find absolutely any Democratic to run against Sen. Thune. The filing deadline just passed so Thune will run without a Democratic challenger. They should have been encouraging Weiland to switch races instead of dropping out all together.
Weiland was prepared to challenge Herseth-Sandlin because she opposed the new health care law, so he should equally want to take down Thune who also stood in the way of health care reform.
Would Weiland be a good candidate or have any chance of beating Thune? It is very unlikely he would win but he definitely stands a better chance of beating Thune than his current Democratic opponent “no one.” Almost anyone is a better opponent than no one. It is not unheard of for a very popular politician to completely crumble (Think George Allen and “Macaca”) and just like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket. Even if Weiland didn’t win, forcing Thune to take some politically tough stances might have some value by possibly hurting a potential Thune 2012 Presidential run.
Maybe next time the Democrats have someone willing to run a statewide campaign and there is a Republican about to go unchallenged for an important office, they will do a better job of putting two and two together.