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Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R)
Mike Rounds
Republicans picked up their second heavyweight Senate recruit in a week, though this one had been telegraphed for a while: Former Gov. Mike Rounds, who had previously formed what he dubbed an exploratory committee, formally announced on Thursday morning that he'd take on Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson in South Dakota. Rounds was a surprise victory in the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2002, sneaking through after the two main contenders bashed each other to death. He went on to win two terms and generally had high approval ratings, except for a time in 2006 following his attempt to enact legislation banning nearly all abortions. (It was overturned at the ballot box that fall.) Presumably, Rounds' entry will clear the field, though given movement conservative anger, you never want to say never.

As for Johnson, the big question is will he or won't he (seek reelection, that is). In 2006, Johnson suffered a very scary and dangerous stroke-like episode involving bleeding in the brain which required emergency surgery and extensive rehabilitation. The incident still affects his mobility and speech, but reports over the years indicate he has improved markedly, and his mental acuity never suffered, though he sometimes still uses a wheelchair.

Johnson did avoid a serious challenge in 2008, since his long recovery made top-tier Republicans wary of jumping in and running an aggressive race lest they look callous. But he had a couple of pretty remarkable wins under his belt prior to that. His first victory in 1996 came against GOP Sen. Larry Pressler, and let's just say that unseating a Republican incumbent (who isn't under indictment) in a red state in a presidential year is truly a hell of a thing. In 2002, Johnson was a top GOP target but managed to win narrowly against John Thune—the same John Thune who went on to beat Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle just two years later.

So his physical condition may not be tops, but Johnson is quite the politician. And he's sounding more enthused about the possibility of another run than, say, Jay Rockefeller is in West Virginia:

"As in past campaigns, I will make my formal announcement later next year," he said in the statement. "But I feel great, still have work to do, and I fully intend to put together a winning campaign in the weeks and months ahead."
I wouldn't take that one to the bank just yet—after all, he could dispel any retirement talk with the snap of his fingers if he chose to— but I'm pleasantly surprised to hear Johnson sounding so game. While Democrats do have some possible replacement options (such as ex-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin) if Johnson does call it quits, I'm quite convinced he's our best hope of holding this seat and I certainly hope he runs again.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 10:50 AM PST.

Also republished by South Dakota Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm usually up on these things (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eeff

    but who was the first one?

  •  We knew this was coming right? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Demi Moaned, TomP

    Just a matter of us playing offense (middle class tax cut hostage taker? Woman rights hater?). Not sure how that will work in SD though... I hope Tim Johnson sticks around.

    As far as our recruitment, I know we'd have to challenge incumbents in red states, but if we can get high profile players like an Ashley Judd to jump in and make every one of those interesting, we can keep the Senate.

    "If these Republicans can't stand up to Rush, how can they stand up to the Iranians?" - Redmond Barry

    by xsonogall on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 10:55:42 AM PST

    •  Six seats look pretty favorable for the GOP ... (0+ / 0-)

      IMO.

      Alaska
      Arkansas
      Louisiana
      Montana
      North Carolina
      South Dakota

      I'd be surprised if we can hold more than four of them.

      "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

      by Demi Moaned on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 10:58:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think NC is the most in trouble (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TomP

        Alaska's not as conservative as people believe; Pryor and Landrieu are institutions; and if Baucus runs again he has lots of seniority.  

        Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

        by Loge on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:06:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Job Approvals For Those Senator (0+ / 0-)

          Alaska - Mark Begich  57%
          Montana - Max Baucus  35% - 54%
          South Dakota - Tim Johnson  47% - 41%
          West Virginia - Jay Rockefeller  47% - 41%
          North Carolina - Kay Hagen  40% - 39%
          Lousiana - Mary Landrieu  53%
          Arkansas - Mark Pryor 51% - 20%

          So most have decent numbers and Baucus really doesn't have anyone strong to run against him.  

      •  But all with the advantage of incumbency (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        xsonogall

        ...and all of whom are relatively popular in their states.

        "(We need) a government of the many, not a government of the money." - Nancy Pelosi

        by ScottyUrb on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:08:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I wouldn't be so sure about Montana (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        xsonogall, TomP, Demi Moaned

        or Louisiana. In both situations you have Democratic incumbents who tend their backyards pretty well. Especially Landrieu. I doubt you're going to find a top tier Republican in the state willing to take on either of them. Or maybe they just don't have any top tiers who can take down a sitting senator with seniority.

        North Carolina and Alaska are first defense seats with freshmen running for second terms. That is when a Senator is most at risk. But both are pretty good politicians, although I have to say Hagan will probably need more help than Begich.

        Mark Pryor and South Dakota are perhaps the most at risk, with Pryor probably much weaker than Johnson.

         

      •  Montana is not favorable in the slightest (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TomP, xsonogall, ipsos

        Baucus is invincible there. On the slight chance he doesn't run again, that merely opens the door for Schweitzer.

        The others, on the other hand, will all be hard-fought races. I still don't understand the worry about Arkansas, however; regardless of GOP gains there recently, with that last name, Pryor is going nowhere.

        •  Also, Democrats do well statewide (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          TomP, xsonogall, Cederico

          Schweitzer will be succeeded by a Democratic governor (Steve Bullock), and Democrats won some of the other statewide races as well.

          "(We need) a government of the many, not a government of the money." - Nancy Pelosi

          by ScottyUrb on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:19:49 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Exactly. Dems are strong in Montana (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ScottyUrb

            Oddly enough, despite Montana's reputation as a red state, the GOP has had real trouble winning Senate races there. Conrad Burns is the only Republican to serve as Senator there in a long time. In the meantime, you've had such Democrats as Baucus, Tester, Jon Melcher and of course the legendary Mike Mansfield, longest serving Majority Leader in Senate history (16 years).

        •  He Is the Favorite Only (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jncca

          because the GOP has not strong candidate there.  His job approvals are horrendous.  He sits at 35% to 54% job approval in Montana right now.

      •  Holding 4 would be nice (0+ / 0-)

        But yeah, we need to make the Rs up for reelection sweat a little. I know our chances aren't great, but we have to at least try.

        "If these Republicans can't stand up to Rush, how can they stand up to the Iranians?" - Redmond Barry

        by xsonogall on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:13:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  2014 will be a tough Senate map for us (0+ / 0-)

    Aren't we defending about the same number of seats as we did this year? Several of them look to be easy pick-up opoprtunities. There was a good diary on this a couple of weeks ago.

    "The smartest man in the room is not always right." -Richard Holbrooke

    by Demi Moaned on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 10:55:50 AM PST

    •  But Repubs have to gain six seats (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cederico

      ...which, for them, is tougher than they had it in 2012.

      "(We need) a government of the many, not a government of the money." - Nancy Pelosi

      by ScottyUrb on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:05:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No. It'll be 20 seats to their 13, so more balance (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cederico

      All the Dems need to do is hold their ground and then prepare to reap the reward of 2016, which should be a bonanza for them in the Senate races and could be as rich a harvest as 2006 or 2008 was.

      •  But the raw numbers (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Demi Moaned, jncca

        Don't tell the full story. We have almost no opportunities on offense in 2014. The GOP has many.

        Political Director, Daily Kos

        by David Nir on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:20:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Any thoughts on SC, GA, and ME? (0+ / 0-)

          If the incumbents are removed by primary challenges?

          Republicans are far more socialist than Democrats. Just because they want to redistribute the wealth upwards does not make it any better.

          by MrAnon on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:24:09 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Wait until the Tea Party does its primary damage.. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ipsos, growingMajorityMN

          ...then talk about the Democrats' opportunities on offense. We may get more than one versions of Indiana this year in 2014, especially since the teabaggers not only haven't seemed to learn their lesson, but are doubling down (Capito barely had announced in WV before they screamed "NOT ACCEPTABLE! RINO!").

      •  And we'll still hold control if we lose five seats (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cederico

        ...and even that doesn't happen every election.

        Republicans need six seats. Even in the monsoon that was 2010, they still only got six seats.

        2015 will have to be a good year for Republicans if they are to gain control. And if they don't in 2014, they may be out of power in the Senate for several years to come since, as you said, there will be plenty of Republican seats from 2010 up in 2016 (such as AZ, FL, IL, NH, OH, PA, WI)

        "(We need) a government of the many, not a government of the money." - Nancy Pelosi

        by ScottyUrb on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:25:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Let them come (0+ / 0-)

      I think we stand a better chance of being prepared to meet the challenge this cycle than in 2010. They will not be as formidable in 2014 for a variety of reasons, and I think we stand a better chance of preaching "Never Again" to our base.

      I'm not predicting that we hold every seat, but I think we end the cycle with Reid still in position to be Majority Leader.

      When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Egalitare on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:18:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hope you're right. Dems should be in stronger (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cederico

        position in 2014 because of the reasons you mentioned - and also because the economy will (likely) be stronger. Plus, Obamacare will be more popular.

        "(We need) a government of the many, not a government of the money." - Nancy Pelosi

        by ScottyUrb on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:28:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Other Than Johnson... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ipsos, meralda

    ...is there a Democrat who could make a race of this?

    We must NOT let what happened in 2010, when we let John Thune run for reelection unopposed, happen again.  Even if we have to offer up a sacrificial lamb we need to have Democrat on the ballot in November 2014 so that Democrats and others unhappy with Rounds or the national Republican party will have a way to formally register that dissatisfaction.

    Let no Republican go unchallenged in 2014.

    “I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point--race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.” ― Molly Ivins

    by RoIn on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 10:57:08 AM PST

  •  This will no doubt be a tough race but I believe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP

    Johnson will run again and he's no stranger to winning tight races against popular Republicans.  Just look at his wins in 1996 and 2002 for evidence.

    •  Especially 2002 against Thune in a Repub year (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TomP

      In all likelihood, Johnson will have to become quite unpopular in order for voters to throw him out.

      "(We need) a government of the many, not a government of the money." - Nancy Pelosi

      by ScottyUrb on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:16:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Pressler (0+ / 0-)

    endorsed Obama, for what that's worth.

    Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

    by Loge on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:05:46 AM PST

  •  Must be a different breed of Republicans in SD (0+ / 0-)
    Johnson did avoid a serious challenge in 2008, since his long recovery made top-tier Republicans wary of jumping in and running an aggressive race lest they look callous.
    Looking callous doesn't seem like it's a big concern of Republicans in most other places.  Just ask Max Cleland.
    •  Funny (0+ / 0-)

      I thought about that even as I was writing that line. It really does appear that that's what happened - that top-tier GOPers were reluctant to run against Johnson because they didn't want to be seen as attacking a sick man. At least, that's definitely how I recall things playing out when I was following the race at the time. Surprising, for sure, given exactly what you say. But I suppose exceptions do happen.

      Political Director, Daily Kos

      by David Nir on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:19:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  people of the Dakotas... (0+ / 0-)

      really don't like ugly politics, and they aren't used to the national attention and national money like North Dakota just had to put up with.

      Heitkamp ran an almost entirely positive campaign, while Berg had to drag Obama in every attack against her because she isn't in Congress. And who is our Senator-elect now?

      I almost hope Rove and his ilk go aggressive on Johnson...it will backfire.

      "It's almost as if we're watching Mitt Romney on Safari in his own country." -- Jonathan Capeheart

      by JackND on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:33:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Boy, if we can just get through 2014... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cederico

    even or with minimal losses, I am really liking our chances for flipping a few seats in 2016! Presidential year with so many freshman GOP senators up for election in Blue states.

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