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For the first time in memory, every state will play a role in choosing a nominee for the nation's highest office.
Some of those parts are small, but not ours: as one of the last two primary elections, South Dakota Democrats suddenly and improbably find themselves in a starring role.
That's an unlikely turn of events, as our state has improbably become a battleground in the long, hard race between two Senators seeking a spot at the top of the Democratic ticket: Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York.
But Clinton is the strongest Democratic candidate for South Dakota.
Her mastery of complex policy detail is broad and deep, and her experience as a senator and former first lady matches that.
Measured against her opponent, Clinton is philosophically more moderate. That is likely a good thing for South Dakota.
Clinton's energy policy is forward thinking and wise. She advocates a broad federal research initiative to help solve our looming oil crisis. It's a plan that would join university researchers, private industry and individual inventors behind a common goal.
Clinton has demonstrated a real commitment to Native American issues and will have visited several South Dakota reservations before the race is over. Clinton is precisely correct when she says that people outside the region have a poor understanding of the troubling trends on our reservations. Federal attention could help. That includes but is not limited to higher-ranking posts in the federal bureaucracy.
Her truly universal health care plan would be welcomed by thousands of South Dakotans. Even on reservations, where health care is nominally universal already, such a plan would be welcome. The federal government would never be allowed to subject everyday Americans to the kind of care Native Americans living on reservations routinely receive.
Her resilience and determination never should be questioned. She has met or overcome every challenge or roadblock in her way, and there have been many. Her determination to carry the nomination process through to its real conclusion has perhaps earned her a grudging respect from those who would never support her.
Clinton might not win this race. In fact, it's a long shot. But whatever some might say, the race is not over, and her name is on the ballot. Win or lose, she's also the best Democratic candidate for South Dakota.
Friday, May 30, 2008