Dem hopes to snatch South Dakota Senate seat fading
Two red Midwestern states feature faux independent candidates for Senate, intended to take Senate seats that should belong to Republicans. In Kansas, the deception is so blatant the Democrats prevailed upon their own nominee to withdraw, and the state Supreme Court permitted this, even though state law forbids candidates from removing their name form the ballot if they are able to serve, resulting in “independent” Greg Orman showing polling leads against GOP incumbent Pat Roberts. That lead, however, is fading fast as Orman plays cute and refuses to state definitively with whom he will caucus.
The gambit in South Dakota is a little less clear cut, as former GOP Senator Larry Pressler appears on the ballot as an “independent,” siphoning votes away from GOP nominee Mike Rounds. Survey USA reported:
In the 3-way slug-fest that is the 2014 US Senate contest in South Dakota, Republican Mike Rounds today is backed by just 35% of voters, 4 weeks till votes are counted, but maybe, just maybe, that's enough to get him elected and enough to help Republicans take control of the US Senate, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted for KSFY-TV, KOTA-TV and the Aberdeen American.
This news encouraged Democrats to rush $1 million to South Dakota (a large sum in the inexpensive media markets there). John Fund writes:
National Democrats just invested $1 million to support Rick Weiland, their candidate in South Dakota’s U.S. Senate race. Everyone is buzzing about a Survey USA poll showing former GOP governor Mike Rounds suddenly holding a narrow lead in a three-way race. The Survey USA poll has Rounds at 35 percent, former senator Larry Pressler at 32 percent as an independent candidate, and Weiland at 27 percent. Even though Republicans say their internal polls still have their candidate with a double-digit lead, there is no doubt Pressler’s presence has made them nervous.
However, Pressler, never the sharpest knife in the drawer, may have just killed his chances. Fund continues:
But the maverick former Senator, who served from 1979 to 1997, just handed Republicans a gift. Pressler has represented a major headache for them because older voters fondly remember him serving in the Senate as a Republican casting mostly conservative votes. But in an interview with Washington’s Hill newspaper yesterday, Pressler made clear that his views have shifted to the left.
While he didn’t say which party caucus he would join in the Senate, he did say he’d be a “friend of Obama,” and repeated his earlier statement that he had voted for him in both his presidential runs. Pressler is also proud of his support for Obamacare, calling it a law South Dakota “needs.” As for budgetary issues, he indicated support for raising taxes on the “wealthy”: “We’re a big, rich country and we don’t need to gouge Social Security, we don’t need to gouge education, we don’t need to close the EPA. We have to meet our responsibilities here at home.”
You can just see the Republican attack ads being lined up for takeoff.
Indeed. And people are starting to talk about Pressler’s dumb and creepy moves in the past. Ed Whelan writes:
Larry Pressler was a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee while I was a committee staffer. As I recall, during the confirmation hearings for Ruth BaderGinsburg and Stephen Breyer, Pressler’s questions primarily involved arcane issues of Indian law. The way Pressler struggled to read the questions and paid no attention to the answers indicated that he had no idea what he was asking about. (snip)
Here’s the story that was most commonly told about Pressler: In trying to leave a hearing, he once mistakenly walked into a closet behind the dais, rather than into the anteroom, and closed the door behind him. Several minutes later, he backed out of the closet and, in an effort to disguise his error, waved good-bye greetings to his imaginary friends in the closet. Whether or not the story is true (I have my doubts), it reflects how Pressler was regarded in the Senate.
As the election nears, voters in Kansas, South Dakota, and elsewhere are paying more attention. Informed voters are the GOP's best hope.