Are smear campaigns becoming an accepted tactic in South Dakota? If you go by the results of an unscientific poll run over at SD Watch you might think so. According to Epps' poll, 59% of those responding think that the smear campaign being run by the Tim Johnson spin machine is fair while only 38% believe that it isn't.
But, if you listen to just about everyone else, the opposite might just be the case. Not only is full on Johnson supporter Epp criticizing the tactic, just about every South Dakota blog on both sides of the isle is following suit and condemning the campaign for ripping Steve Kirby despite the fact he has yet to even declare he is running.
Ok, so you might think that it's no big deal, who reads the blogs anyhow? Most people don't even know that the Johnson attack dogs have latched onto Kirby and before today I might have agreed. A funny thing happened this morning that might give this story just a bit more pub as the infamous South Dakota liberal rag, aka the Argus Leader, has also penned an editorial criticizing Johnson for going negative.
As much as we might have hoped that the days of negative campaigning were behind us, that clearly is not the case. Every election cycle, it seems, is earlier and dirtier than the last.
And while we would have hoped Sen. Tim Johnson would swim against that rising tide of negativity, his campaign for re-election already has been part of problem.
While the Argus does go out of their way to show that their liberal leaning hasn't been totally forgotten when they commend Johnson for asking that the site responsible for the smears be taken down, it is noteworthy that they at least mentioned this story. The Argus editorial now takes it out of the blogosphere and puts it squarely into the homes of many South Dakotans that might have never known that this was happening.
It is also noteworthy that while much of the controversy over the Kirby smear centers around the fact that he has yet to even announce his intentions to run against Johnson, it is being reported that his intentions should finally become known when he plans on making an announcement of some sort on Monday. If the claws have been brought out and sharpened before Kirby is even officially in the race, just imagine how ugly this might get if as is expected, he does decide to run.
Johnson has built up quite a bit of political capitol over the past year with most South Dakotans after his illness and has been allowed to campaign without much criticism from those that have announced their candidacy (Joel Dykstra who? ), but with this latest tactic has he made it ok for his challengers to finally take off the gloves? If so, hold onto your hats as what was once thought to be a somewhat boring and successful re-election campaign for Johnson could now be much more interesting.