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South Dakota’s Nader (or the nadir of a phony campaign?)

Tim Giago now claims that instead of running against Tom Daschle in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, he’s going to run in the general election as an independent. Of course, the “pundits” are talking about a Nader effect because the Indian reservations in South Dakota are heavily Democratic. The most recent voter registration figures show that while Democrats are outnumbered by the GOP by nearly 45,000 out of a total of 462,000 voters, in Shannon and Todd counties (home of the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations, respectively) Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly 7 to 1. Moreover, when Tim Johnson was re-elected two years ago, he beat John Thune by 524 votes. In Shannon and Todd counties, Johnson won 4,883 to 712.

In that regard, Giago arguably poses a risk. With his focus on Native American issues, the reservations will be his prime source of votes. What is unclear at this point is whether Daschle is stronger than Johnson head-to-head against Thune so he can afford to lose some of the reservation vote and whether the role they played two years ago will convince Native Americans that a vote for Giago is practically a vote for Thune. Yet I think there’s another issue: none of this makes sense.

Giago’s formal announcement that he was running in the primary just came last week. Why this mercurial change? Giago already has enough signatures to get on the primary ballot but needs to start over to get on the general election ballot. Entirely speculation on my part but my guess is Giago sought something from Daschle or the Dems, didn’t get it and now hopes to play some sort of spoiler role. At the same time, there’s no doubt at all that Tim simply loves the publicity and there’s no explaining ego.

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