A Republican representative from South Dakota was seeking another term in Congress. Another win seemed likely against a little-known Democratic challenger.
But anger over federal agriculture policies helped that young Democrat win. You may have heard of him: George McGovern.
McGovern defeated Rep.Harold Lovre in an upset in 1956. The ag policies of Eisenhower administration and Congress were a key issue.
Varilek is aiming to use anger over the failure to pass a new farm bill to propel him to Congress. It is stalled in the House after the Senate passed it with both Tim Johnson and John Thune voting for it.
Like McGovern in 1956, this is Varilek’s first bid for elective office, and he is doing a lot of things right: touring the state, shaking hands and claiming the incumbent is not getting the job done.
Rep. Kristi Noem is pushing to pass the bill. She’s a freshman liaison to the House leadership and wants this bill sent to President Obama.
Noem is seeking her second term after slipping past Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in 2010. Polls a few months ago showed SHS led Noem in a rematch, but Herseth Sandlin took a pass, opening a door for Varilek, a former Tom Daschle and Johnson staffer.
A new poll released Friday by Nielson Brothers Polling of Sioux Falls claims Noem only leads her challenger 47-46 with the rest up in the air. The Democrats cheer the close race, while the Republicans claim NBP has little credibility, since its president is a Democrat who ran for Legislature.
It is worth noting that a poll Nielson Brothers released in the days before the 2010 election gave Noem a lead of slightly more than 2 percent. That was exactly correct. But it was way off in a poll on the Daugaard-Heidepriem race for governor, reporting that the Democrat had a chance. He didn’t.
The New York Times says Noem is a clear favorite. It is rather unusual for the GOP to cling to the NYT as their savior, but there you have it.
Is this a true race? Very possibly. Will the farm bill be a major issue? Certainly.
For more on today’s poll, check my story in this weekend’s paper.