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So I am happy to see people on this blog already getting ready for the fight we face in 2014.  Sure, we could take a break now that the election is over but the threat of the Republicans taking over the Senate in 2014 should send a shiver down your spine.  Senator Jerry Moran (R. KS) has been hired on as the new head of the NRSC with Senator Rob Portman (R. OH) as his sidekick and newly elected Tea Party Senator Ted Cruz (R. TX) gearing up to play a hand in the recruitment process.  This could either prove to be a dismal failure or a success for the GOP in their efforts to take the Senate.  Sure, they have their eyes on taking out Democrats like Mark Begich from a red state and Kay Hagan from a swing state but the seat they are anticipating is Senator Tim Johnson's (D) of South Dakota.  And the GOP may have their ideal candidate in former governor, Mike Rounds.

There has been speculation that Senator Johnson is expected to retire and that this will be his last term in the U.S. Senate due to his health.  In 2004, he was treated for prostate cancer and was clear of the disease.  In 2006, Senator Johnson suffered bleeding in the brain caused by cerebral arteriovenous malformation.  Johnson went through surgery and lengthy physical, occupational and speech therapy.  Though his speech has never fully recovered, Johnson returned to the Senate in February, 2007 to co-sponsor the Emergency Farm Relief Act of 2007.  Seven months later, Johnson returned to the Senate full time and has remained active ever since.  

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The question remains though if Johnson's health will play a role in his decision to retire or run again.  Tom Lawrence of The Daily Republic, local paper based in Mitchell, South Dakota, had this to say:

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His speech, once clear and clever, is now slowed and slurred, and while he needs a wheelchair, a walker and assistance to move about, he keeps working in DC and SD. His sparkling, bright eyes reveal the passion and intelligence still evident, still deeply involved in the nation’s governance. I think he’s running in 2014. - Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic, 9/7/12
With the exception of 2008, Johnson is no stranger to winning tough elections.  He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1986 with 59% but narrowly defeated Senator Larry Pressler (R) with 51% in 1996.  In 2002, Johnson again was in a tough race with then Congressman John Thune (R) but ended up defeating Thune by just 524 votes.  Adam Green, co-founder of Bold Progressives remembers his role in Johnson's 2002 re-election campaign:

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Green still cherishes the lessons of his formative political jobs in South Dakota, where he worked as the press secretary for Senator Tim Johnson's reelection campaign in 2002. "I ended up being the campaign's liaison to the farmer and rancher community -- culturally conservative, pro-gun rural voters," Green recalled. "[Johnson] fought back against big agribusiness, and these Republicans were willing to vote for a Democratic politician who stood up for their families." - The Atlantic, 11/16/12
Senator Johnson's voting record indicates a moderate voting record:

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Johnson has proven to be a good friend to organized labor, farmers and ranchers in South Dakota and supports gun control, health care reform, immigration reform and a woman's right to choose which is something to heavily consider because his potential challenger, former Governor Mike Rounds (R), signed a controversial bill as governor to ban most abortions in the state:

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The governor of South Dakota, Mike Rounds, signed today a bill intended to ban most abortions in the state and to set up a challenge to the United States Supreme Court decision, handed down in 1973, that legalized abortion in all states.

The law would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman's life, with no exception for cases of rape or incest. Planned Parenthood, which operates the state's only abortion clinic, has pledged to challenge the law in court. - New York Times, 3/6/06

The bill was never put in place due to a court challenge and the bill was repealed due to a successful effort to put it on the ballot in November 2006.  Now here's an interesting fact to remember:

According to a Survey USA poll released in January 2006, Rounds had an approval rating of 73% and a "net" approval rating of +52%, which placed him among the top five governors in the United States in terms of approval rating.[4] Following the abortion ban, again according to a SurveyUSA poll, Rounds's approval rating dropped 14% to 58%; his approval rebounded to 70% after the ban was repealed.[5] - Mike Rounds Wikipedia Page
But one big thing that concerns me about Johnson is his role as the Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.  Senator Johnson hasn't exactly been the strongest voice for consumer advocacy and has softened financial regulations but his most recent thoughts on Elizabeth Warren being on his committee shows a silver lining of hope:

"I have a good working relationship with Elizabeth Warren and I would welcome her to the committee if that's what she wishes," said Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, in a statement to Reuters.

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"Her expertise and knowledge would be an asset to the committee as we continue working to protect consumers and maintain financial stability." - Reuters, 11/13/12

But if there is one issue that Johnson is true blue about, it's getting our veterans back to work:

Senator Tim Johnson wants to get to the bottom of why many veterans are unemployed. Nearly 700,000 of them are without jobs in America, a disturbing trend Johnson says needs to be addressed.

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"It's an opportunity to ask questions and comment about the problems vets are facing in terms of unemployment," Johnson said. -, 11/13/12

South Dakota has some strong programs to help National Guard returning from active duty and other veterans find work and these programs rely on federal funding.  Johnson's priority in the next congress is for both parties to come up with a plan that won't hurt veterans benefits and programs:

“I think they will come out at least as well as they are now,” he said of veterans’ programs, “because there is a special sensitivity to dealing with veterans. Both parties agree you should not touch veterans benefits, as much as possible.” - Argus Leader, 11/10/12

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I sure hope the Senator is right about this but it's very possible that there would be some Republicans who would actually support cuts to veterans programs.  Job training programs for veterans is his passion issue and I don't think he wants to leave the Senate yet without making sure they are fully protected.  

I'm not sure when Johnson will make his announcement about his decision to run for re-election but the right sees this seat as a golden opportunity pick up:

Tim Johnson… needs to rest. I’m sorry, but he’s not a well man and outside of 2008 his Senate elections have always been close. He’s going to be at a real disadvantage this campaign season. - Red State, 11/17/12
I honestly can't think of a Democratic candidate in South Dakota who could beat Mike Rounds other than Tim Johnson.  We all know South Dakota is a deep red state but even the voters there have their limits.  Voters have short memories so I can just see the attack ad now against Rounds highlighting the fact that South Dakota voters repealed his anti-abortion law.  That speaks volumes and it shows that Rounds is too extreme for South Dakota. Rounds is in the same clown car as these guys:

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Ah yes, wasn't it fun beating these guys?  There truly is nothing sweeter than beating Republicans on their own turf.  

I can also imagine that Johnson would have other forms of ammo to attack Rounds with and Johnson has a long record in Washington serving South Dakota to run on.  It's now up to Johnson to decide if he wants to retire or keep fighting for South Dakota's veterans jobs programs.

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Originally posted to pdc on Sun Nov 18, 2012 at 12:00 PM PST.

Also republished by South Dakota Kos.

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