Rick Weiland, the presumptive Democratic candidate for the seat being vacated by retiring South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson, has been unable to generate excitement for his candidacy within his own party, The Hill
Two other Democrats, the incumbent's son, U.S. attorney Brendan Johnson, and former Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, declined to run.
Weiland does have the backing of his former boss, ex-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Howard Dean's progressive Democracy for America. But members of the Democratic establishment, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, are said to think that Weiland's strategy doesn't mesh with South Dakota's political landscape. Mitt Romney carried the state with close to 60 percent of the vote in the 2012 presidential election.
The candidate says that Obamacare did not go far enough; is against the Keystone XL pipeline; opposed Obama's desire to intervene in Syria's civil war, and differs with the administration's decision to reduce the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline this year.
Campaign adviser Mike Lux told The Hill Weiland is not running on a standard progressive platform. "I think he's running a populist campaign, and I think that a populist campaign has won most South Dakota senate elections in the last few years for Democrats. It's not a conventional progressive campaign at all."
Weiland's stance on making Medicare more flexible will go over well with seniors, and his opposition to Keystone will be popular with farmers, Lux said.
In the general election, Weiland will go up against the winner of the June 3 Republican primary, most likely
Mike Rounds, the former governor, and former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, running this time as an independent.
Analysts say that it would take an influx of national Democratic money to boost Weiland's chances in the general election.
Daschle has lobbied Reid to back Weiland but the majority leader is said to be "skeptical" about the candidate chances, The Hill reported. That could change if Weiland can show he stands a chance at winning.
A recent Rasmussen Reports poll
of likely voters showed Rounds with 51 percent against Weiland's 31 percent.
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