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Democrat Responds to DSCC’s South Dakota Gamble

Reid is the Senate majority leader. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Reid is the Senate majority leader. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will run $1 million in advertising in the South Dakota Senate race — a welcome, but not surprising development for the campaign of Democrat Rick Weiland.  

A Weiland campaign senior adviser and veteran Democratic operative said he expected the move, given Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s interest in remaining in charge. Steve Jarding, a South Dakota native who helped elect future Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in 1986 and worked for four years at the DSCC, told CQ Roll Call moments after Bloomberg Politics broke the story  on Wednesday that he had a feeling the national party would eventually invest there.  

The DSCC did so, despite the race being seen for months as a likely Republican win and the well-known feud between Daschle and Reid, who had tried to recruit former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin into the race to succeed retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.  

“I think he’s coming in because this race is getting too close,” Jarding said he’s told people for months. “The reason I believe he’ll come in when the race gets close is, being majority leader means way, way, way, way, way more to Harry Reid than does fighting with Tom Daschle. If this is the 51st seat, Reid will be here.” An automated poll released Wednesday found front-runner Mike Rounds, a Republican former governor, taking just 35 percent in the multi-candidate field. Beyond Rounds and Weiland, a former Daschle aide, are two independent candidates previously elected as Republicans, former Sen. Larry Pressler and former state Sen. Gordon Howie.  

The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for a group of state media outlets, found Pressler with 32 percent, Weiland with 28 percent and Howie with 3 percent.  

“A million dollars is a lot in South Dakota, and Mike Rounds has run a lackluster campaign,” said a Republican media consultant tracking the race. “The fact that he isn’t winning by double digits is his own fault entirely. But fortunately for Rounds, Rick Weiland is so far outside the mainstream in South Dakota, and Rounds should still win even if the DSCC dumped in $10 million.”  

Bloomberg reported that Democrats are hopeful either Pressler or Weiland can prevail. Pressler was elected as a Republican to the first of two House terms in 1974 and to the first of three Senate terms in 1978, but he supported President Barack Obama in the last two elections.  

Jarding, who believes the Democratic voters currently backing Pressler won’t be once they learn of his congressional record, related the current situation to the 2006 Virginia Senate race — he managed Jim Webb’s campaign — when national Democrats were plotting a path to the majority and Webb was awaiting outside financial assistance. The dramatic difference here is the inexpensive media markets.  

“They came in in early October, and the rest is kind of history,” Jarding said. “This had that feel, but you never knew if they’d come in, even though you’d look at the numbers and say, ‘Where are you guys? You’ve got to get in this thing.’ And then all of a sudden two minutes ago I open up an email, and, ‘I’ll be darned, they actually did.'”  

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