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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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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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