So I know a lot of people here want to write off the 2014 South Dakota U.S. Senate race because former Governor Mike Rounds (R. SD) is believed to be the nominee and former Congresswoman and Blue Dog Caucus Whip Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D. SD) passed on the opportunity. Former aide to Senator Tom Daschle (D. SD), Rick Weiland (D. SD), is running for retiring Senator Tim Johnson's (D. SD) seat. I can understand the skepticism but allow me to remind you all that Rounds is not loved by groups like the Tea Party, the Club For Growth or the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has motived Republicans like State Senator Larry Rhoden, Dr. Anette Bosworth and former State Rep. Stace Nelson to jump into the primary. While Rounds might have a great shot to win the nasty primary, he will still have to deal with this guy in the general election:
Here's a little history on Evans and third party candidates in South Dakota elections:A Libertarian candidate who some say was a big factor in a 2002 U.S. Senate race in South Dakota could be a factor again next year.
Kurt Evans will seek the Senate seat held by Democrat Tim Johnson, who isn't seeking re-election after three terms, the Argus Leader reported.
"Every time you've got a third-party candidate running in the general election, the question always is, who's he going to take votes from?" said Ken Blanchard, a political science professor at Northern State University. "A Green Party candidate is going to take votes mostly from Democrats. If a Libertarian runs, you expect him to take votes mostly from Republicans."
Some people think that's what happened in 2002, when Republican John Thune lost to Johnson by just 524 votes — with Evans getting 3,070 votes.
Thune, who was elected to the Senate in 2004, said last year that he thinks Evans cost him the race in 2002. - News Observer, 9/19/13
Ah, but should the South Dakota GOP still fear Evans' impact on this race? Sure, Rounds seems poised to win next year given his name recognition and South Dakota being a red rural state. But we're seeing Libertarian candidates really start to have an impact in races that take place in red rural states. Just take a look at last year's U.S. Senate race in Montana where Libertarian candidate Dan Cox received 6.56% of the vote. That may have helped cost Denny Rehberg (R. MT) his chance to unseat incumbent Senator Jon Tester (D. MT). So it might be foolish for the South Dakota GOP to not fear Evans candidacy. Then again, they might be more worried about how the crowded GOP primary might play out. The most recent polling to come out of this race is from the GOP polling firm, Harper Polling, shows that Rounds is the GOP's strongest candidate:The Libertarian won less than one percent of the vote in that race, but in a contest decided by just 532 votes in Johnson's favor, many observers believed the 3,071 votes won by Evans helped reelect Johnson. (Raising the age-old question as to whether third party candidates are bringing new voters into the electorate or changing the preference of individuals who would have voted for one of the major parties).
Evans actually dropped out of the race in mid-October just a few weeks before Election Day and endorsed Thune, but his name still appeared on the ballot and ended up receiving 0.9 percent of the vote.
The only other cycle in which another third party or independent candidate received more votes than the winning victory margin in South Dakota U.S. Senate electoral history came in 1936, when independent Arthur Bennett won 4.4 percent in a race Democratic incumbent W.J. Bulow won by 2.1 points over Republican Chandler Gurney.
Republicans are probably less worried about Evans in 2014 - a cycle in which Johnson's seat is expected to land in the GOP's lap, should they coalesce around a candidate that November. - University of Minnesota, 9/16/13
The survey was conducted among 517 likely voters from Sept. 4-5, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. But even if Rounds survives the primary, we'll have to see how far right he'll have to move in order to secure his party's nominee. Rounds has had his conservative credentials come into question. He refuses to sign Grover Norquist's pledge to never raise taxes and the debt he left behind as Governor are sure to come up. Weiland firmly believes that Evans' candidacy will have a big impact if Rounds' secures the nominee:The survey, conducted by GOP firm Harper Polling, gives Rounds a 14-point lead over Weiland, with 52 percent support to Weiland's 38 percent support.
Rounds is a well-liked former governor and entered the race with establishment backing, but conservatives are unhappy with his record and have pledged to issue a strong primary challenge.
So far a number of contenders have already entered the primary, including state Rep. Stace Nelson, state Senate Majority Whip Larry Rhoden and physician Annette Bosworth. But according to the new poll, none are as competitive as Rounds against Weiland.
Both Rhoden and Nelson still lead Weiland, but by smaller margins. Rhoden takes 41 percent to Weiland's 35 percent support, while Nelson leads the Democrat by only two points.
And Weiland actually leads Bosworth by two points. - The Hill, 9/10/13
Rounds has been hitting the campaign trail hard, spreading is populist message about raising the minimum wage and pledging to make overturning the Supreme Court's decision on Citizens United a top priority. I don't think we cut our losses with this race just yet. This looks like a GOP pick up opportunity on the surface but we'll need to see how the primary plays out. Not to mention Senator Tim Johnson (D. SD) has been throwing his support behind Weiland:Political analysts say Weiland would have to make the race very close in order to benefit from Evans’ presence on the ballot.
“It’s really going to depend on how well the Weiland campaign develops,” said Bob Burns, a retired political science professor from South Dakota State University. “If indeed he can narrow that gap that currently exists and make it a competitive race, then the presence of a Libertarian candidate, I think, can have an impact on the outcome.”
Weiland said that if Rounds is the Republican nominee, “Kurt Evans will set the modern-era record for most votes received by a third-party candidate. Mark it down.” - The Plainsman, 9/21/13
If you would like to get involved with Weiland's campaign, you can do so here:Sen. Tim Johnson has officially announced his support for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rick Weiland in the November 2014 election.
As the comletion of his third term in the U.S. Senate approaches, Johnson is looking to pass the torch. Weiland hopes it will be to him.
"The hunger out there for the people of our state to really connect with their hopefully future senator. I think that's the reason Tim is supporting this campaign," said Weiland.
Weiland has known Johnson for decades. On Sept. 12, Johnson announced that he will be backing Weiland in the 2014 election.
Although the two have known each other for several decades, Weiland does not think friendship is the reason Johnson is publicly supporting him.
"It's all about my efforts to take on big money. Not let big money buy this election. But to go out there and earn it by going door-to-door, town-to-town, talk to voters," said Weiland. - KDLT News, 9/14/13