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SD's Tim Johnson Coasting in Early U.S. Senate Poll

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In recent years, when Republicans have looked for a competitive race in which to pick up a U.S. Senate seat, their eyes frequently turned to South Dakota. South Dakota is a reliable state for the GOP in its state legislature as well as vote for president: in the 29 presidential elections held in South Dakota since statehood, Republicans have won 25, compared to just 3 for the Democrats (William Jennings Bryan also carried the state on the Populist ticket in 1896, by 185 votes over Republican William McKinley). In fact, Democrats have won only 1 of the last 18 presidential contests since 1940 (Lyndon B. Johnson carried South Dakota in his 1964 landslide presidential victory).

But races for the U.S. Senate in South Dakota tell a different tale: Democrats have won 5 of the past 7 races since 1986, and 9 out of the last 15 races since 1962. Overall Democrats have won 12 of 32 U.S. Senate races since popular vote elections began in 1914. The reason for this greater success in Senatorial elections is obvious: home-grown Democratic Senate candidates have generally better reflected the conservative core values and policy positions of the state's electorate than have national Democratic presidential candidates.

These U.S. Senate races have been very competitive, with the last election in 2004 a nail-biter that saw the defeat of Democratic Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle at the hands of John Thune by about 4,500 votes (1.2 percentage points). Since 1986, 5 out of 7 Senatorial races in South Dakota have been decided by 7 points or less, with Democrats winning 3 of these very competitive contests.

Given the competitive nature of South Dakota Senate races, two-term Democratic incumbent Senator Tim Johnson was on the GOP's very, very short list of possible pick-ups in 2008. Johnson's health problems stemming from an arteriovenous malformation in December 2006 have not deterred his political career, and the state's popular senior Senator announced last October that he would seek a third term.

Rasmussen has just released the first public poll of potential GOP matchups with Senator Johnson, and it appears the GOP list of possible pick-ups just got even shorter. Highlights from the Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters:

  • Against ex-Lieutenant Governor Steve Kirby, Johnson holds a 62 to 32 percent edge.
  • Against State Representative Joel Dykstra, Johnson's margin is measured at 63 to 28 percent.

The Rasmussen poll also confirms what is widely known and felt across the Mount Rushmore State—Senator Johnson is widely popular, boasting a 73 percent favorability rating.

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Remains of the Data

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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