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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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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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