I n a desperate final gamble at saving himself, Sen. Tom Daschle went to court last night in Sioux Falls. At 8:00 p.m., less than twelve hours before the polls were to open, Daschle sought an order–from a judge he recommended be appointed to the federal bench–seeking dismemberment of the Republican poll-watching operation in South Dakota.
Late last week, Daschle had also sought an injunction in tribal court on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation asking that the poll-watching activities of Republicans–not all parties–be severely restricted. The Democrats won that suit, and people wondered if Republicans would be allowed on Pine Ridge at all until the U.S. attorney said the court order could not be enforced. The Daschle campaign is also planning an extensive effort to challenge Republican absentee voters on Election Day.
In the Sioux Falls suit last night, Daschle’s personal lawyer asked that the entire GOP poll-watching system be reorganized in the state because a Howard Dean supporter from Virginia (who had been in South Dakota for 24 hours) saw GOP monitors “rolling their eyes” and “ostentatiously taking notes” near polling places. The Deaniac was also worried about the license plates of five voter-hauling vans being written down near polling places. The evidence of “intimidation” presented by the Daschle’s lawyer drew snickers from the courtroom crowd, which expected something substantive to be reviewed. A large crowd outside held signs saying “Don’t Steal Tom,” “Shame On You Tom,” and “This Is Low.” Details on the hearing can be found here.
It’s been a rough ten days for Daschle. A Zobgy poll showed him losing to Thune in a race that has become dominated by Daschle’s duplicity on abortion (he now says he’s against it, all his work for NARAL and Emily’s List notwithstanding), his wife’s lucrative lobbying, and discussion of his mansion in Washington. (For more on the mansion, see www.daschlemansion.com.) The Democratic Senatorial Committee has started running ads bashing Daschle’s opponent in order to help the senator, despite Daschle’s constant statements for a year that he would never allow “outside groups” to help him. The Media Fund also came in to run anti-Bush ads, which might help Daschle in a state where John Kerry will lose badly. This is not the way Daschle wanted to finish the race.
–Jon Lauck is blogging the South Dakota Senate race at www.daschlevthune.com.