South Dakota's Ex-Gov. Rounds Is GOP's Best Chance at Senate Pickup

Image: South Dakota's Ex-Gov. Rounds Is GOP's Best Chance at Senate Pickup

Wednesday, 04 Jun 2014 12:42 PM

By John Gizzi

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In capturing the Republican nomination in a landslide over four opponents on Tuesday, South Dakota's former two-term governor Mike Rounds positioned himself toward being his party's best candidate to pick up a Democratic-held Senate seat in 2014.

According to a just completed SurveyUSA poll among likely voters statewide, Rounds — who signed into law one of the nation's toughest anti-abortion laws while governor — leads Democrat Rick Weiland by a margin of 44 percent to 30 percent. Weiland, a onetime aide to former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, became a candidate only after several better-known Democrats opted against a run to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson.

The same poll showed former three-term GOP Sen. Larry Pressler drawing 17 percent as an independent candidate.

As to any fear that renegade Republican Pressler will draw votes from Rounds, the former governor's campaign manager Dick Wadhams did not see it.

"You have to remember that Mr. Pressler was a Republican-for-Obama in '08 and '12," Wadhams told Newsmax. "He supports same-sex marriage and has said in the past he would have voted for Obamacare but tried to change it. This is not a platform that's going to take away votes from Mike Rounds."

With near final results in, Rounds rolled up 57 percent of the vote over his four opponents. Many conservatives were disappointed in Rounds for refusing to sign the no-tax pledge of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, including Norquist himself.

"Mike just doesn't sign pledges, period," said Wadhams. "But his record on opposing tax increases while governor speaks for itself."

At this point, the lone threat to Rounds appears to be history. For inexplicable reasons, South Dakotans have denied their former or lame duck governors a chance at higher office.

"No former governor has ever won a Senate seat in South Dakota, with the last sitting governor to do so being 70 years ago," Eric Ostermeier wrote on the Smart Politics website.

Five of the last six campaigns by former or sitting governors have ended in failure since the Great Depression.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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