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Election Profile: South Dakota U.S. Senate

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Smart Politics is running a series of election profiles of all the Upper Midwestern U.S. Senate and U.S. House races leading up to the November 4th elections. The series will culminate with Smart Politics' official projections. The second profile in the series is South Dakota's U.S. Senate race.

Candidates:
Democrat: Tim Johnson (2-term incumbent)
Republican: Joel Dykstra

History:
Tim Johnson looks to win his third term as Senator from South Dakota. Johnson ousted 3-term Republican Senator Larry Pressler in 1996 with a 2.6-point victory. Johnson won re-election in 2002 by 532 votes over soon to be Senator John Thune, thanks in part to the Libertarian candidacy of Kurt Evans (who netted more than 3,000 votes).

Johnson serves on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affair Committee, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Indian Affairs Committee.

Dykstra, a state legislator since 2002, is currently the Assistant House Majority Leader in South Dakota.

Democrats have won 5 of the past 7 U.S. Senate races in South Dakota since 1986, and 9 out of the last 15 races since 1962. Overall, however, Democrats have only won 12 of 32 U.S. Senate races since popular vote elections began in 1914.

Outlook:
South Dakota was at one point on the GOP's very short list of possible pick-ups in 2008. Senator Johnson experienced an arteriovenous malformation in December 2006, but decided to continue his political career with an official announcement back in October 2007. Senator Johnson is one of the nation’s most popular Senators, with Mount Rushmore State residents consistently giving him favorability ratings in the high 60s. His seat is safe.

Previous post: Election Profile: South Dakota U.S. House (At-large) (2008)
Next post: Election Profile: Iowa's 1st Congressional District (2008)

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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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