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Humor In The House Race

May 25, 2012, 9:55 PM by Perry Groten

Humor In The House Race
Jeff Barth


The race for South Dakota's U.S. House seat is generating plenty of online laughter, but will Democrat Jeff Barth's quirky campaign ad that's gone viral lead to votes in next month's primary? 

A little whimsy on the campaign trail by Barth caught many political observers off guard.

"I don't know Mr. Barth, but I got a good chuckle out of it," University Center political science teacher Jay Newberger said.

Newberger says humor has a long tradition in American politics.

"We can go back to Thomas Jefferson, we can go back to the early days, right here in South Dakota," Newberger said.

Nowadays, candidates have the Internet to reach voters who might prefer a more light-hearted approach to politics.

"YouTube, that's where it's at. I'm sure that many, many young voters have caught that, they follow that stuff," Newberger said.

Newberger says the nearly five minute long video might strain some voters' attention span.

"It could have been shorter, more compressed so that people could recall more of it," Newberger said.

While the ad has been an attention grabber, Newberger says it's no guarantee that Barth will be laughing all the way to victory at the ballot box.  After all, humor, just like politics, is very subjective, and jokes don't always translate to votes. 

But Newberger wants the candidates to keep trying.

"We need some humor, I hope there's more of it," Newberger said.

Newberger says humor works best for first time candidates in need of name recognition, rather than the incumbent who has the seriousness of the office to uphold.  

Barth is facing Matt Varilek in the June 5th Democratic primary.  The winner will face Republican incumbent Kristi Noem in the fall.

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