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Ex-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-SD) official portrait
Ex-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D)
We're in rare territory with PPP's new South Dakota poll, their first of the cycle: Democrats might be better off if our incumbent, Tim Johnson, decides to retire and make way for the state's former congresswoman, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. Johnson's job approval rating is a very middling 44-45, not too surprising given the difficulties of serving as a Democratic senator in a red state. Herseth Sandlin, though, retains a decent measure of popularity despite getting narrowly turned out by voters in the 2010 wave, with favorables of 52-37. This difference translates rather directly in the head-to-heads against the GOP's two top offerings, ex-Gov. Mike Rounds and Rep. Kristi Noem, the woman who beat Herseth Sandlin in the first place. Here's how it all stacks up:
Rounds vs. Johnson: 52-41
Noem vs. Johnson: 49-45

Rounds vs. Herseth Sandlin: 49-44
Noem vs. Herseth Sandlin: 47-48

As you can see, Herseth Sandlin performs several points better than Johnson in either matchup: She keeps Rounds a hair under 50 and actually edges Noem, the only ballot test where a Democrat leads. Still, this race looks like it would be a very difficult hold for Team Blue even with Herseth Sandlin, and right now, we don't even know who will run. Johnson, 66 and afflicted by health issues ever since suffering a stroke in 2006, still hasn't announced his plans.

If he does decide against another go, it's also no sure thing that Herseth Sandlin would run in his stead. She declined entreaties to seek a rematch against Noem last year and instead joined a lobbying firm in DC. That's not exactly the best resume item if you're planning to return home to run again, though Wikipedia notes she never formally registered as a lobbyist, for what that's worth.

If Johnson bows out and Herseth Sandlin says no, that probably leaves Democrats with Johnson's son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, as their best option, but he starts out with little name recognition and gets crushed by Rounds (53-32) and Noem (49-37) alike. And in a hypothetical (albeit unlikely) primary, Herseth Sandlin starts with a whopping 68-16 lead.

But we may get a bit lucky. While Rounds is undoubtedly the GOP establishment's top choice, he's not a dominating figure amongst the rank-and-file; like most governors, his time in office was marked by a sufficient level of pragmatism to earn him the dreaded label of "moderate" from the conservative base. So even though Rounds announced all the way back in November, the more ideologically pure Noem hasn't quashed speculation about a possible bid on her part, and if she does jump in, hoo boy, things could get interesting.

That's because Rounds holds a bare 43-39 edge in a primary matchup, and Noem actually fares a touch better with GOP voters in terms of favorability, 71-18 vs. 67-17. Unfortunately, it looks like PPP didn't include a question about ideology, so we can't break this down among, say, respondents who consider themselves "very conservative," but I'd be willing to bet that the further right you go, the more enthusiasm there is for Noem.

Now, Kristi Noem isn't exactly Todd Akin, but a messy, bruising Republican primary is definitely possible, and certainly something Democrats would want to root for. And with any luck, PPP's new numbers will help convince Noem to take the plunge. It certainly wouldn't be the first time they've had that sort of effect. And if Johnson ultimately opts against seeking a fourth term, hopefully this new poll will also inspire Herseth Sandlin to run in his stead. After all, she'd have a chance to take revenge against Noem, and how sweet would that be?

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 08:33 AM PDT.

Also republished by South Dakota Kos and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I used to work with her husband (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    meralda

    Very cool guy.  I'd like to see her back in DC.

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 08:40:51 AM PDT

  •  She has moved back to South Dakota (6+ / 0-)

    Stephanie is now VP & General Counsel of Raven Industries in Sioux Falls:

    http://ravenind.com/...

    Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

    General Counsel & Vice President of Corporate Development

    Ms. Herseth Sandlin joined Raven in August 2012. Prior to joining Raven, Ms. Herseth Sandlin was a Partner at OFW Law in Washington, D.C. from 2011 - 2012 and served as South Dakota's lone member of the United States House of Representatives from 2004-2011.

  •  Would she be South Dakota's first female Senator? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    meralda

    Funny Stuff at http://www.funnyordie.com/oresmas

    by poopdogcomedy on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 09:39:58 AM PDT

    •  technically the third (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JVolvo, davybaby

      Gladys Pyle was the first from SD, and the first woman elected to the US Senate in her own right.  Although elected, she was never sworn in because the Senate wasn't in session until after her term ended (Nov. 1938-Jan 1939 (she replaced Peter Norbeck who had died in office).  

      From Wiki: she  "drove to Washington, D.C., with her mother and an aide and spent the next five weeks in the capital as South Dakota’s Senator" concluding that "'Just because the Senate is not in session is no sign a Senator cannot be of service to her constituents."

      The second Senator Vera Bushfield served as an appointee after her husband'S death from Oct to Dec. 1948.

      But SHS would be the first to be potentially elected and sworn in and serve.

      Never separate the life you live from the words you speak - Paul Wellstone

      by meralda on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 10:37:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Herseth Sandlin (5+ / 0-)

    Herseth Sandlin is a self-defined blue dog and votes accordingly. A number of South Dakota Democrats cooled in their support for her for this reason. I would probably stay home rather than vote for her. Even holding my nose while trying to vote for her wouldn't work because I know she would conduct herself as if she were a Republican once she got in.

    Noem had a campaign ad playing in October in which she touted her home-town creds (voted Best Young Farmer by Future Farmers of America or something like that) vs her opponent's advanced education and international experience. I wish I knew how to find that ad and post it here. It is a howler. Her opponent ran an ad showing a video of of Noem being asked to stop chatting on her cell phone while she was in a committee meeting/hearing so she and others could attend to the nation's business. She is another dim bulb bully of the George W. Bush type.

    I would like to see a strong campaign run to retain Tim Johnson or his son. It would help if the national Dem organizations would pitch in money and support.

    I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth whenever I please.--Mother Jones

    by bluebrain on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 09:54:42 AM PDT

    •  I get it, but as a like-minded SD voter (12+ / 0-)

      hold your nose and repeat after me "Supreme Court nominations, Supreme Court nominations..."  

      And despite her Blue Dog record, she has actually been good on many of the Native American issues affecting an important demographic group - which could help outthe party in other state races (as well as being the right thing to do for fellow South Dakotans).

      Never separate the life you live from the words you speak - Paul Wellstone

      by meralda on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 10:47:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Supreme Court (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        draghnfly, PDiddie, bluebrain

            How long will this bloody shirt be waved? I'm pretty sure "Supreme Court nominations" was an argument to vote for Humphrey in 1968. To vote for a senator based upon Supreme Court nominations is to suppose that:

        a. A Democratic President will nominate someone to the Supreme Court who will make a difference, and

        b. There are 59 other votes for cloture, and this particular Blue Dog will risk his or her career by voting for cloture, thereby becoming a prime target of the right.

             We've bought that dog before. More likely, they'll be like Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, or Joe Lieberman, and use their status as a Democrat to block progressive reform. It's what conservative Democrats do. It's how they prove they're not like those crazy hippie other Democrats.

    •  Better a blue dog than a republican (11+ / 0-)

      Better to have a blue dog than an air headed right winger like Noem. The truth is a democrat in a very red state has to represent their constituents as well as they can and maintain democratic values.
      Anyway Sandlin may have no interest in running but Johnson needs to announce what he plans to do soon.

    •  SHS has also been great on environmental issues (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JGibson, skibum59, pistolSO, shrike

      and on women's health and reproductive issues which could be an asset to her beating Rounds or Noem or whoever the GOP nominates.

      Funny Stuff at http://www.funnyordie.com/oresmas

      by poopdogcomedy on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 11:13:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If H-S is the candidate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      meralda

      I'll leave that slot blank.

      Here's the Noem vid. I was dead certain it was satire until I saw the SD GOP credit.

      •  Noem vid (0+ / 0-)

        That's the one! Thanks for finding it.

        I still don't understand the corn dog scandal the ad seems to be trying to whip up but touting Noem's hometown "accomplishments" seems silly.

        Tim Johnson has been a steady force for Democrats. He is responsive to his constituents. He has been extremely canny in his commitment to the farmers (the political power base in South Dakota), the military and to the Indian population.

        Rounds can't seem to resist governing from his Catholic perspective to the degree that he censored library materials and is always greasing the wheels for anti-abortion activity in South Dakota. He has an insurance background and has been very supportive of insurance interests.

        South Dakota is a red state that has been represented by Democrats McGovern, Daschle, Johnson, and Sandlin. We need national support to make it happen again.

        I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth whenever I please.--Mother Jones

        by bluebrain on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 09:26:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  She Could Be This Cycle's (8+ / 0-)

    Heidi Heitkamp.  She has the appeal and might get a chance to run against Noem who is a more polarizing figure than Rounds.  

    Sen. Johnson will retire.  He is already leaning that way according to people in the state and his numbers versus Rounds are horrible.  A Democratic incumbent running the mid to low 40's in a deep red state is very endangered.

    •  a matchup for the House (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, bluebrain

      between Noem and Brendan Johnson would be a race I would like to see, and could give the younger Johnson a chance to become better known.

      Never separate the life you live from the words you speak - Paul Wellstone

      by meralda on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 10:53:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sounds good to me (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pistolSO

    A fresh face may be what South Dakota needs for its next U.S. Senator.  Heidi Heitkamp won election last November to be the first female U.S. Senator in North Dakota, why can't Stephanie Sandlin run instead?  

    Let's do it!

  •  i wouldn't count on SHS running (0+ / 0-)

    she's rather risk adverse and passed on he governor's race back in 2010 and the rematch in 2012.  The reasons behind not running for governor were family related (new child) and a being a few years older may not have changed much.  Granted this poll may change some of it, but the odds of her running if Johnson retires still seem low.

    NH-02. First time living in NH, waiting for the candidates to start a courting.

    by DougTuttle on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 06:38:56 PM PDT

  •  Let SD be the ND of this cycle (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shrike

    A surprise victory to everyone except the people paying attention.

    West Virginia can be the Missouri. Kentucky and Georgia can both be the Indiana (surprise pickup!)

  •  "Herseth" - never heard that name before. (0+ / 0-)

    Where does it come from?

    I demand that you prove you're alive.

    by Troubadour on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 07:21:00 PM PDT

  •  Herseth.... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ron Thompson, raboof, PDiddie, bluebrain

    Hmmm. This is the same one who I recall Daily Kos members helped elect years ago, then were screaming about for years afterward regarding her Blue Dog vote record correct? Who voted against ACA and a darling of the NRA?

    I thought electing better Dems was the mantra instead of any Dems.

    "Patients are not consumers" - Paul Krugman

    by assyrian64 on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 07:25:08 PM PDT

  •  I Don't Care (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    draghnfly, Meteor Blades

    Unless we need one vote to make someone other than Harry Reid the Majority Leader, it'll never make any difference.

    "More Democrats" was a viable strategy in 2006, but more Democrats like Johnson or Sandlin aren't going to pull the country to the left--they're going to pull the Democratic Party to the right. And with the demographic trends among Latinos, women, and young people, and the Republican base dying of old age, I want the Democratic Party's wins in the next ten years to be a force for progressive change. Wins by Sandlin or Johnson will only get in the way of that, as the DSCC and Reid pursue a legislative strategy based on protecting Blue Dog Democrats at the cost of passing legislation to help and protect the people who elect Democrats outside of South Dakota and Louisiana.

    •  I'd be willing to pick one Blue Dog... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluebrain

      ...if there were two left-liberals elected for each of them, putting the emphasis on the "better" part of "more and better." But, like you, I am not so interested in the Herseths of the world. Look what she did last time.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 12:46:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  A question about Noem (0+ / 0-)

    She's been pretty silent at least in terms of effectiveness in congress, like I didn't realize people called her polarizing. Is is the Traffic tickets?

  •  Is the Game Worth the Candle? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluebrain

    If memory serves, Ms. Herseth-Sandlin was against health care reform and blamed her defeat in 2010 on the Democratic party's insistence on pursuing Democratic policies. Why waste a lot of time and money on this seat. The best we'll do is get a supporter of Big Usury who votes with us no more than 55% of the time.

  •  Difference is Johnson is a Democrat.. (0+ / 0-)

    Herseth is a disgrace to the memory of her dad, a former party leader with balls when Dems were scarce in SD, and to the Daschle crew that groomed her as a progressive.

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