In the past two weeks or so, Matt Varilek had one main thing to say: He could defeat Kristi Noem.
In fact, when he talked politics, and he and I did several times, he didn’t want to talk much about Jeff Barth. Varilek was focused on the general election, on Noem, on winning South Dakota’s lone seat in Congress.
He would say he respected Barth and wasn’t looking past him and yadda yadda yadda … but then he would make another point about why he could defeat Noem.
On Election Night, all the media people like me who had given Barth a chance with his stance for gay marriage and his unique, weird, funny video, were proven wrong. This wasn’t a race.
Varilek won in a walk. He could move past Barth, and focus on his goal from the start: Taking on Kristi Noem.
He goes there as the party’s clear choice, with the backing of Johnson, Daschle and McGovern, and with his first race for office under his belt. He’s an underdog, but polls have shown Noem and other incumbents are vulnerable this year.
And in 2010, it was widely asserted that another South Dakota congresswoman was a big favorite for another term. Ask Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, private citizen, how that worked out.
As far as Barth, he’s still a Minnehaha County commissioner and his statewide name recognition just skyrocketed. Does he have another run in him this year — the Democrats need another PUC candidate — or in the future?
And he still made the funniest campaign video in SD history. SD Republicans liked it, and tried to pump up his chances with state and national media. They felt Barth was an easier guy to beat in the fall.
Instead, they get Varilek, who is dead serious about winning.