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Smart Politics Projections: South Dakota U.S. House

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Herseth Sandlin tries to avoid the biggest fall by a U.S. House incumbent in South Dakota history

Current delegation partisan split
Democrats: 1 at-large seat

Incumbents
Democratic incumbents: 1

Analysis
South Dakota's at-large race in 2010 is a quintessential 'toss-up' contest with two competing variables in play.

On the one hand, Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has been personally well-regarded by her electorate throughout most of her six years in office and, in true Blue Dog Democrat fashion, she does not have the voting history that might ordinarily alienate the conservative South Dakota electorate in a GOP-leaning year.

However, the problem for Herseth Sandlin is not simply that she is facing a worthy opponent in 2010 (Kristi Noem is the Assistant Majority Leader in South Dakota's House of Representatives), but that the Congresswoman has no padding at the top of the ticket.

Not only is Republican gubernatorial nominee Dennis Daugaard expected to win big, but the Democratic Party's failure to field a candidate in the U.S. Senate contest against 1-term GOP incumbent John Thune marks the first time in 34 contests since popular vote U.S. Senate elections were introduced in 1914 that a Democratic candidate has not appeared on the ballot in South Dakota.

The net result is that if Roem should upset the Congresswoman on Tuesday, Herseth Sandlin's plunge from a 35.1-point victory over her GOP rival in 2008 to a loss in 2010 would mark the biggest fall by a U.S. House incumbent in Mount Rushmore State history.

Such a fall would be certainly unusual. So, unusual, in fact, that perhaps Noem's momentum will be curbed at the 11th hour by South Dakota's independent streak that often finds its electorate splitting its ballot. The Republican-heavy state has elected Democrats in 11 of 15 at-large elections since the number of South Dakota's representatives dropped from two to one in 1982, without voting for a Democratic president or governor once during this span.

Projection
SD-AL. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (Democratic hold)

Partisan shift: No change

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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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