I hosted a debate Wednesday, along with Todd Epp, between three of the four candidates for the South Dakota US Senate Race on Viewpoint University.

Former US Senator and current Independent Larry Pressler, Democrat Rick Weiland, and Independent, but still a Republican, Gordon Howie spent 90 minutes in the VPU Boardroom talking about why they should get our votes.

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CNN, that's right THE CNN, with reporter Dana Bash, spent the entire time taping and observing the event.

Here are my observations:

  • The fact that CNN spent the entire time with us means they think this Senate race is important on a larger scale than just South Dakota. Allegedly, they have a story running today, or tomorrow about it.
  • Dana Bash made a side comment during one of the breaks, marveling at how friendly the candidates were to each when the microphones were NOT on. During the longer breaks, each of them engaged the other talking about hunting, poetry, and the weather. There were no side huddles with their respective "people." Ms.Bash explained in places she has attended forums such as ours, the candidates never engaged each other in normal conversation.
  • When Todd and I developed the questions it was our intent to garner responses which were simple and to the point. There were a few questions which allowed for opportunities to expound for paragraphs. In fact we received very few direct answers, and a couple of times, there were no answers. Each of them took off on "their talking points" regardless of the question. Annoying, yes. But becoming more typical at all levels of politics.
  • My Chicago roots came very close to the surface. I wanted to interrupt the entire debate and explain I would NOT tolerate vague, evasive, or non-responses. However, I have been in this state long enough that part of me has become "hopelessly South Dakotan."  Meaning non-confrontational, i.e. "South Dakota nice." Next time I will let my Chicago side rule and see what happens.