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South Dakota Poll Roundup and Smart Politics Projections

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Heading into the weekend, Smart Politics plays it close to the vest in deciding to present South Dakota in the second of its Upper Midwest election summaries for the key battles in the Upper Midwest. With incumbents expected by everyone to hold serve in that state, the real challenge lies ahead in some closely watched Minnesota and Wisconsin races…the roundup and predictions for which are coming soon…

SD Governor: The latest KELO-TV / Argus Leader poll has 1-term incumbent Republican governor Mike Rounds leading Democratic challenger Jack Billion by 22 points: 57-35. Billion has gained 7 points on Rounds since July, but not nearly enough to eke out a victory in a state that has elected a republican governor in the last seven 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. In 2002 Mike Rounds handily beat Democrat Jim Abbott by 15 points. Rounds' widespread popularity (his approval ratings remain in the low 60s) in a generally pro-Republican state should give him a strong showing, despite indications that the abortion ban he signed will likely be rejected by South Dakota voters. Smart Politics Projection: Rounds, Republican hold.

SD U.S. House-At large: Two-term Blue Dog democratic incumbent Stephanie Herseth remains a very popular figure in South Dakota politics—with favorability ratings in the low 60s—and will prove to be too much for Republican challenger Bruce Whalen to handle. Herseth won South Dakota's at-large seat to the U.S. House of Representatives in a June 2004 special election that was called to fill the seat vacated by Representative William Janklow (who resigned after being convicted of manslaughter for killing a motorcyclist with his automobile). Herseth edged Republican nominee Larry Diedrich in that election by just two points (approximately 3000 votes). The two candidates squared off again in November 2004, with Herseth winning by 7.5 points. Democrats won the first seven at-large races when the number of South Dakota's representatives dropped from two to one in 1982. However, since 1960, Republicans have won 21 of 35 U.S. House elections in the state. But Herseth's family has a long political history in the state - her grandfather was governor of South Dakota, her grandmother was Secretary of State, and her father served in the state legislature for twenty years and was the Democratic Party's nominee for governor in 1986. Herseth's strong name recognition, her incumbency advantage, and her popularity will insure this Blue Dog Democrat remains in the U.S. House. Smart Politics Project: Herseth, Democratic hold.

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Strike Three for Miller-Meeks

Iowa Republicans had a banner day on November 4th, picking up both a U.S. Senate seat and one U.S. House seat, but Mariannette Miller-Meeks' defeat in her third attempt to oust Democrat Dave Loebsack in the 2nd CD means the GOP will not have a monopoly on the state's congressional delegation in the 114th Congress. The loss by Miller-Meeks (following up her defeats in 2008 and 2010) means major party nominees who lost their first two Iowa U.S. House races are now 0 for 10 the third time around in Iowa history. Miller-Meeks joins Democrat William Leffingwell (1858, 1868, 1870), Democrat Anthony Van Wagenen (1894, 1912 (special), 1912), Democrat James Murtagh (1906, 1914, 1916), Democrat Clair Williams (1944, 1946, 1952), Democrat Steven Carter (1948, 1950, 1956), Republican Don Mahon (1966, 1968, 1970), Republican Tom Riley (1968, 1974, 1976), Democrat Eric Tabor (1986, 1988, 1990), and Democrat Bill Gluba (1982, 1988, 2004) on the Hawkeye State's Three Strikes list.


Larry Pressler Wins the Silver

Larry Pressler may have fallen short in his long-shot, underfunded, and understaffed bid to return to the nation's upper legislative chamber, but he did end up notching the best showing for a non-major party South Dakota U.S. Senate candidate in more than 90 years. Pressler won 17.1 percent of the vote which is the best showing for an independent or third party U.S. Senate candidate in the state since 1920 when non-partisan candidate Tom Ayres won 24.1 percent in a race won by Republican Peter Norbeck. Overall, Pressler's 17.1 percent is good for the second best mark for a non-major party candidate across the 35 U.S. Senate contests in South Dakota history. Independent and third party candidates have appeared on the South Dakota U.S. Senate ballot just 25 times over the last century and only three have reached double digits: Pressler in 2014 and Ayres in 1920 and 1924 (12.1 percent). Pressler's defeat means he won't become the oldest candidate elected to the chamber in South Dakota history nor notch the record for the longest gap in service in the direct election era.


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