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SD Governor: History Is On Rounds' Side...Unless...

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South Dakota boasts a fascinating political history, peppered at the edges with contradictions in partisan preferences among its electorate. On the one hand, democrats have more than held their own in federal congressional statewide elections, winning 9 of the last 16 US Senate races since 1960, and 9 of the 13 statewide elections held for US House since 1982 (when the state's delegation was reduced to a single at-large seat).

On the other hand, South Dakota overwhelmingly votes republican for statewide executive races. The state is a slam-dunk for the GOP in presidential elections, voting Republican in 11 of 12 elections since 1960. Republicans have also won each of the last seven gubernatorial elections dating back to 1978. In fact, only four Democrats have ever been elected to the Governor's office in the state since elections began in 1889.

With this history in mind, it is no surprise that Governor Mike Rounds is considered to have one of the few safe seats for republican incumbents in 2006. Rounds faces Democrat Jack Billion, along with candidates from the Constitution and Libertarian parties. Indeed, for most of the past year Rounds ranked as one of the most popular state executives across the nation—achieving at least a 70% approval ranking in 10 straight SurveyUSA polls from May 2005 to February 2006.

But Billion has a slight opening. After signing the state's controversial abortion ban in early 2006 (a ban that outlaws the procedure even in cases of rape and incest), Rounds' approval rating took a noticeable hit—dropping 14 points in one month (SurveyUSA, March 2006). Rounds' approval rating rose a few points in April, but it has remained in the low 60s ever since.

The lesson from this 10-point dive is that Rounds' position on abortion is even tougher than that held by the citizens of his fairly conservative state. The state's referred law on abortion will be on the ballot this November, and polls show those opposing the ban will likely prevail (although if the rape/incest provisions were removed, the law would probably pass) (KELO-TV/Argus Leader).

Whether or not Rounds' act was one of political courage perhaps depends not only on one's stance on abortion, but also on whether or not one believe Rounds would have signed the law if his approval rating were in the 50s instead of the 70s. Jack Billion has carved out his clear opposition to Rounds on the abortion issue, but he will likely need to drive at least one more wedge into the fight to make it a 10 round bout.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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