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SD 2008 Election Forecast: Will Momentum Towards the Democrats Continue?

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South Dakota, one of the most reliably Republican states in the Midwest, will be an interesting state to watch in 2008. First, the state will have a high-profile Senate race, whether or not the state's senior Senator, Democrat Tim Johnson, decides to run for a third term. Johnson is recovering from a brain hemorrhage last December, though his former colleague Tom Daschle stated earlier this summer that Johnson will seek re-election.

Last election, however, South Dakota voters seemed to move a bit closer to the Democratic side of the political spectrum—as did most states across the U.S. in Election 2006. The state's at-large Representative to Congress, rising Democratic star Stephanie Herseth, won the third largest victory for a Democrat in a South Dakota U.S. House race in five decades (winning by 40 points).

But the biggest news for the Democrats came in the state Senate. From 2000 to 2004, Democrats lost by 24-11, 25-10, and 25-10 seat margins. In 2006, they gained five seats, losing 20-15.

Even more telling, the average margin of victory in state Senate races became, comparatively, much more competitive. The average margin of victory in such races in 2000 was 51 points, followed by 62 points in 2002, and 49 points in 2004. In 2006 this was cut in half, with a 25-point average margin of victory—including 14 races decided by 10 points or less. From 2000 to 2004 only 10 of the 105 Senate races were decided by this margin. While Democrats failed to field candidates in 6 Senate races last year, 45 percent of votes for state senator still went to the Democrats, compared to just 34 percent over the previous three election cycles.

But the news is not all good for Democrats—Governor Mike Rounds won re-election by nearly twice the margin as his inaugural victory in 2002.

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Political Crumbs

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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