Between the Lines

Between the Lines This week, I kept wishing I was smart enough to analyze Tuesday's election results and figure out just how John Thune defeated Tom Daschle in the U.S. race. by David Lias This week, I kept wishing I was smart enough to analyze Tuesday's election results and figure out just how John Thune defeated Tom Daschle in the U.S. race.

With the pre-election polling data showing the two men to be in a dead heat, things could have easily turned sour for Thune, I reasoned, just as his 2002 Senate race against Tim Johnson did.

Anyway, like I said, I was wishing I had some facts that reflect how Thune won. No sooner had the thought crossed my mind than � poof! � I received an e-mail from a friend.

He's probably one of the brightest guys I know. And he must have also been curious about the differences in Thune's performance this year compared to 2002, too.

Judging by the amount of data he sent me in such a short time after the final votes were counted, he must have really been wired on caffeine for most of this week.

What I found in my electronic inbox was a Tim Russert-like analysis of data from Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, complete with maps and everything.

Knowing in advance that I don't have room to publish all of the maps, I chose the one that has the fewest numbers and is probably the easiest to understand.

Trust me, I didn't make that decision to benefit Plain Talk/Wakonda Times readers. If I was good at math, I wouldn't be making my living stringing words together.

I'm just hoping I use the information my friend sent me to properly explain the map. Let me apologize right now in case I soon begin to make no sense whatsoever.

Here goes.

To make analysis a bit easier, my friend has divided the great expanse of our state into several regions with which we're all familiar: Southeast, Northeast, Jim River Valley, East Central, Cattle Country and the Black Hills.

In the upper left corner, it's noted that in 2002, Thune came up 528 votes short. This week, he came out 4,534 votes ahead.

The top line of numbers in each box throughout the map shows how Thune did in that region in 2002; the bottom line is 2004 data.

The numbers reveal something surprising. Remember all that talk about the Native American vote being responsible for Tim Johnson's win two years ago?

Turns out it wasn't that big a factor.

The truth is that South Dakota GOP candidates must always overcome a reservation area deficit of between 4,000 to 10,000 votes by how well they do in the rest of the state, according to my friend, who notes that eight of 10 GOP candidates did that in 2002.

In 2002, Thune did not do as well as he should have in many areas of the state, not just the reservation areas.

Similarly, Thune won Tuesday because he had broad improvement in many places throughout the state.

The numbers on the map show he actually lost the reservations' areas by more votes this year, but his good showing elsewhere made up for all of the reservation deficit.

Thune essentially did as well as he did in 2002 in the Black Hills and the Upper Jim River area, he lost by 300 more in East Central and by about 700 more in Cattle Country (west river without Black Hills).

But, Thune did much better in the Northeast, Minnehaha County and the Southeast.

He cut his East River losses from -12,058 to -6,248 so that the West River +10,782 could overcome the decreased East River losses.

Thune improved in almost every East River county, not losing by as much as he did before and winning some places by more than before.

Gains to highlight include Codington, Minnehaha, Lincoln and Hutchinson counties.

He showed improvement in all three population clusters � the three largest counties total, the next 12 most populous counties and he even didn't lose as much as before in the rural 51 counties. I have to agree with this observation my friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, included with all of this information � you can certainly make better conclusions than I when you look at the results.

Vermillion Plain Talk editor David Lias hopes to catch up on his sleep now that life is beginning to return to normal. You may contact him at

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