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Earlier today, I released a diary about the House GOP possibly blocking Senator Jeanne Shaheen's (D. NH) amendment to expand abortion coverage for female soldiers who have been raped.  Well this diary also deals with the abortion theme so if you can bare with me, please read on.

A while back I wrote about the political future of Senator Tim Johnson (D. SD).  Johnson as you may or may not remember suffered a stroke in 2006.  He has recovered but his speech has been affected.  So we are still waiting to hear about his decision to retire or not.  What we do know is that former Governor Mike Rounds (R) is looking to make a run in 2014:

Former South Dakota governor Mike Rounds is launching an exploratory committee for a potential 2014 campaign, according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

“I do have an interest in looking at the 2014 Senate race in South Dakota,” Rounds told the Argus Leader. - Washington Post, 9/14/12

Rounds left office in 2011 at the end of his second term with high approval ratings.  

Now you might be asking yourself, "Mike Rounds... Why does that name sound so familiar?"  Well Rounds gained national media attention when he signed a bill banning most abortions in 2006:

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Gov. Michael Rounds of South Dakota signed into law the nation's most sweeping state abortion ban on Monday, an intentional provocation meant to set up a direct legal challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal.

The law makes it a felony to perform any abortion except in a case of a pregnant woman's life being in jeopardy.

Mr. Rounds, a Republican, said in a statement after signing the legislation in Pierre that it was the right thing to do. The law will force a legal showdown before it ever comes into effect, an outcome its supporters, eager to overturn Roe, intended.

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"In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society," the governor said. "The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them." - New York Time, 3/7/06

After Rounds signed the bill, Planned Parenthood and abortion advocate activists hit back:
Around the country, abortion rights advocates responded with fury, calling the new law "blatantly unconstitutional," dangerous and counter to what a majority of Americans would support. Planned Parenthood, which operates the abortion clinic in South Dakota, pledged to use any means necessary — whether a federal lawsuit or a statewide referendum — to sideline the statute.

Under state law, if opponents collect 16,728 signatures of registered voters in the next three months the law will be delayed and a vote held on the issue in November. - New York Time, 3/7/06

So you'd think in a deep red state like South Dakota, gathering 16,728 signatures would be a difficult task.  Well it turns out that the majority of South Dakota voters are pro-choice and on May 30th, 2006, opponents of the abortion ban collected over 38,000 signatures to have the bill placed on the November ballot.  On November 7th, South Dakota citizens voted to have the law repealed.

SurveyUSA did a poll in January of 2006 showing Rounds with a 73% approval rating, making him one of the most popular governors in the country.  However, following the abortion ban, Rounds saw his approval dip to 58%.  His approval rating bounced back to 70% after the ban was repealed.  

Rounds was also hopeful that the Supreme Court would overturn Roe v. Wade in 2006 and even compared the reversal of Roe v. Wade to the Supreme Court's reverse decision on Plessy vs. Ferguson:

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"The reversal of a Supreme Court opinion is possible," the governor said. "For example, in 1896, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the Plessy vs. Ferguson case that a state could require racial segregation in public facilities if the facilities offered to different races were equal. However, 58 years later, the Supreme Court reconsidered that opinion and reversed itself in Brown vs. Board of Education." - 3/7/06

It's not surprising that the NRSC is eager for Rounds to make his decision about running against Johnson.  He was a popular governor but South Dakota voters don't believe their local government has any say over a woman's right to an abortion.  I don't know if Rounds got the message after his ballot initiative in 2006 failed but some South Dakota Republicans are getting it:

South Dakota state legislator Larry Rhoden is as loyal a pro-life crusader as you are likely to find in the Rushmore state. Rhoden worked enthusiastically in 2004 to pass a state bill that would ban nearly all abortions. When that failed, he continued to push the issue--helping to form an abortion task force that would give legitimacy to the ban effort, and helped lead the efforts on another abortion ban bill that passed the legislature but failed when referred to a statewide vote as a ballot initiative in 2006. He even lent his support to the most recent incarnation--a ban including exceptions for rape and incest--that failed as a ballot initiative again this past Election Day.

But after two defeats at the ballot box, the conservative Republican is ready to throw in the towel. "I would question the wisdom of anybody that wanted to bring it forward again," says Rhoden, who makes his living as a rancher in the sparsely populated western corner of the state. His personal view on abortion hasn't changed, but as a policy-maker, Rhoden makes it plain that he wants no part of any more abortion bans. - CBS News/The New Republic, 9/22/09

Current Republican Governor, Dennis Daugaard (SD), hasn't gotten the message from voters either:

Women who want an abortion in South Dakota will face the longest waiting period in the nation – three days – and have to undergo counseling at pregnancy help centers that discourage abortions under a measure signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

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Daugaard, who gave no interviews after signing the bill, said in a written statement that he had conferred with state attorneys who will defend the law in court and a sponsor who has pledged to raise private money to finance the state's court fight. Officials have said estimated the cost of defending the law at $1.7 million to $4.5 million. - Huffington Post, 3/22/11

Daugaard was Rounds Lt. Governor during both Rounds terms and now his old boss is planning on running for Senate.  With this new abortion law in place, it could give Johnson ammo to go after Rounds.  

There have been quite a few theories about why South Dakota voters won't ban abortions in their state.  There's the "reverse Bradley effect" theory:

"There's a lot of public pressure to be anti-abortion," explains Marvin Buehner, a Rapid City OB-GYN and South Dakota's most outspoken physician against the abortion bans. Buehner had predicted voters would reject the 2008 ban, but narrowly. "People are more likely to answer the poll that they'll support [a ban]. Then they get into the ballot booth and decide they just can't vote for something like that." - CBS News/The New Republic, 9/22/09
There's also "abortion fatigue":
The idea is that voters have gotten so tired of the abortion discussion that they did not listen to new messages from either side. Whether the 2008 proposal included exceptions seems to have been irrelevant, says Joel Rosenthal, chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party from 1985-1989 and 1995-2003. - CBS News/The New Republic, 9/22/09
And because abortion has been debated several times in South Dakota, voters are becoming more educated about the issue:
Politicians and grassroots organizers say their supporters now express more nuanced positions on abortion than the simple "pro-life" or "pro-choice" claims of the past. After the extensive 2006 campaign, South Dakota's electorate is now well-versed in specific circumstances--from rape and incest to a list of fetal anomalies (trisomy is a term now widely understood in the state) to any number of health complications--that could lead a woman to consider an abortion. It's difficult to mount a political campaign driven by sound bites with such a sophisticated electorate. - CBS News/The New Republic, 9/22/09
Abortion might be the issue that could cause Rounds to lose the race but only if he takes the bait.  I wouldn't be surprised NRSC Chairman Jerry Moran (R. KS) gave him the ok to make it an issue again.  Because it worked out so well for candidates like Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock and Rick Berg.  

Of course we will have to see if Senator Johnson has any fight left in him but there are some strong indicators that he's getting ready to run for another term:

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Johnson is still coping with the debilitating effects of a brain hemorrhage he suffered in 2006 and needs a motorized wheelchair to get around the Senate. While Johnson’s speech is slurred, colleagues and aides say his mind is sharp.

He has served as chairman of the Banking panel for only two years and appears to relish the job. Winning re-election would give him more time to leave his mark on the committee.

Johnson has yet to announce his decision but a lobbyist with strong ties to Senate Democrats predicted he would run for a fourth term.
He reported $1.2 million in his campaign war chest at the end of September. - The Hill, 11/25/12

Rounds will certainly have the backing of the Republican establishment in South Dakota.  They'll have to support him because his Super PAC funded their campaigns:

Politicians hoping to win high office down the road have long spread money to other campaigns along the way in the hope of engendering good will. The latest is former Gov. Mike Rounds.

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The "Peter Norbeck" political action committee that Rounds, a Republican, founded after leaving office at the end of 2010 might be the single-most important financial force in South Dakota’s 2012 elections.

The Norbeck PAC distributed $120,500 this fall to Republican candidates for the Legislature and the state Public Utilities Commission, as well as some other Republican political committees, according to its pre-general election financial report. - The Center For Public Integrity, 10/24/12


Another aspect that will make this a tough race but could also become a big campaign issue is Rounds love for Super PAC cash:

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Rounds might very well owe his political career to the state's loose campaign finance regulations.

He benefited from large PAC contributions as a fledgling gubernatorial candidate in 2002. Rapid City lawmaker and philanthropist Stan Adelstein funneled $60,000 to Rounds' campaign via two contributions from the Building Rapid City PAC, which was almost entirely funded by Adelstein. Of that $60,000, $25,000 came at a critical point late in a three-way primary race when Rounds was gaining momentum but running out of money.

Candidate Rounds also received more than $200,000 in 2002 in two separate contributions from Adelstein's A Better South Dakota PAC. While that PAC was organized by Adelstein, it was funded by a series of $5,000 contributions from several individuals.

Adelstein's fortune hasn't reached the heights of Sanford's, but he has been actively involved in South Dakota politics on both sides of the aisle since taking over the family construction business as a young man in the 1950s.

Rounds won a Cinderella victory in that three-way GOP primary in 2002, and went on to easily win the general election and serve two terms as a popular governor, from 2003 through 2010. - The Center For Public Integrity, 10/24/12

Rounds Super PAC connections helped him win a tight primary and went on to win the general election but will they be able to help him win a Senate seat?  We'll have to wait and see.

Tim Johnson is no stranger to winning tight races.  He narrowly defeated incumbent Larry Pressler (R) in 1997 and his closest race was in 2002 against then Congressman and no current Senator, John Thune (R):

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(Adam) Green (cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee) 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

Rounds backed out of challenging Johnson in 2008 due to large public sympathy for Johnson's return to the Senate after his brain hemorrhage but he's getting ready to challenge Johnson, who is pro-choice, FYI.  This will certainly be one of the most closely watched races but I like Johnson's confidence.  Rounds may have the Super PACs but as we witnessed from this past election that no amount of unregulated campaign cash can make up for a radical record or make an extremist candidate win.  I have faith in Johnson pulling off another win, even in a midterm election.  He still has some fight left in him and he's not going to let Rounds take him out so easily.

Originally posted to pdc on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 07:00 PM PST.

Also republished by South Dakota Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  it'll be a dog fight (4+ / 0-)

    Johnson is the only person in S.D. who would have a chance against Rounds and vice-versa. Both have big followings in their respective home areas. Johnson will win east river while Rounds wins west river, but, as I mentioned in your previous diary, it may well come down to the Native American vote and how well Johnson and the democrats do on the reservations.

    I also wonder who Stan Adelstein will back since the right wing of the GOP has attacked him with gusto over the last few years. He might be inclined to sit it out this time.

    America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

    by cacamp on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 07:31:53 PM PST

  •  Rounds is a clever boy for sure (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RamblinDave, Lujane

    as an insurance broker, he has all the charm of a snake oil salesman and the venom to go with it.  Just before his last charming run in South Dakota, he was instrumental in having the Vietnam Veterans event in Pierre and got to look like a little Napoleon compared to the other corporal that we had in Washington at the time.  Of course, some of us vets knew this was all about the election and the timing could not have been better for Rounds in that regard.

    His last little ditty was his mansion on the Missouri River in Pierre.  He had a hissy about the water rising and what would happen to the poor boys meager homestead.  Just like the rest of the riff raff in Dakota Dunes, Rounds rises to the top like a turd in the gutter.

  •  Hate to say it, but... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, plankbob, deepeco, meralda does sound like Rounds knows how to hit the right notes on abortion. Anti-choicers love to compare themselves to the civil rights movement, and he's got that down pat with the Plessy v Ferguson analogy. They also thrive when they can capitalize on people's squeamishness about abortion with things like waiting periods that sound "not that bad" to anyone who doesn't know the real agenda at work, and he's had some practice in selling that as well.

    What I do think might be his Achilles' heel is the sheer extremism of the 2006 law. He simply pushed the envelope too far that time, and that might give pause to the voters who helped overturn it - they might like him otherwise, but maybe they won't want a guy like that in the Senate. Especially if it means throwing away eighteen years of seniority and the only member of the Senate's majority party in their delegation. If Johnson retires, though, I fear Rounds may get away with it.

    Whatever happens, though, let's remember what just happened in the other Dakota and never give up!

    Certaines personnes disent qu'il y a une femme à blâmer, Mais je sais que c'est ma faute sacrément.

    by RamblinDave on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 07:59:18 PM PST

  •  Insurance company leech turned gov, shame. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.

    by plankbob on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 08:58:32 PM PST

  •  If South Dakotans are anti-anti-choice, why do (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RamblinDave, wilderness voice

    they continue to elect these extreme right-wingers?  I don't get it.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 07:12:11 AM PST

  •  How do Conservatives get elected... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice

    in a Progressive State?  Do they have Electronic Voting Machines that don't print a receipt for your vote?  The way to avoid the possibility of a fraudulent election is to have paper ballots that are then machine-counted.  That way, you can do a hand-count to verify the accuracy of the election if needed.   A purely electronic machine can be easily jimmied to deliver a win to a conservative (or vice versa) without a paper trail to verify.  

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