A month ago, Michigan was supposed to be home to one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races, while South Dakota was largely seen as an afterthought. As of this week, however, Republicans have given up on the former, while Democrats have renewed hopes about the latter.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will spend $1 million in South Dakota – mostly on television and the rest on field operations – in a last-minute attempt to hold a U.S. Senate seat they now view as winnable, Bloomberg Politics has learned. A DSCC official said advertising will likely be on the air by Monday. As in the Kansas Senate race, Democrats believe they now have a chance to offset inevitable losses elsewhere and maintain control of the Senate.
To put it mildly, this was unexpected. Democratic leaders have spent the last several weeks insisting that South Dakota was a lost cause, and with limited resources and a shrinking calendar, there was simply no point in even considering this race.
But as we saw in Kansas last month, the landscape can change quickly. We talked yesterday in some detail about why South Dakota’s three-way contest has become more competitive, and internal Democratic polling reportedly found a close enough contest to warrant real investment.
Note, Dems are now spending $1 million – and $1 million goes a long way in South Dakota – which at this late stage, isn’t a perfunctory, let’s-see-what-happens kind of investment. It’s a real effort.
At this point, polls show a modest margin separating former Gov. Mike Rounds (R), Rick Weiland (D) and Larry Pressler, a former Republican senator who’s running as an independent. The Democratic investment will be focused on bringing down Rounds, who’s been plagued recently by a credible scandal, while a crowd-funded super PAC launched by Larry Lessig will invest another $1 million in support of boosting Weiland.
It’s a recipe for a competitive statewide race.
For their part, Republicans continue to believe Rounds, who’s led this race from the start, is in a position to prevail, but the fact that South Dakota is even drawing any attention at all has to be discouraging for the GOP.
Indeed, the Republicans’ road to Senate control keeps running into detours.
This was supposed to be pretty easy for the GOP: flip the three red states where Democratic incumbents are retiring (Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota), pick up two in the Deep South (Arkansas and Louisiana), win just one of the toss-up states (Iowa, Colorado, Alaska, North Carolina), and hold onto the seats Republicans already control.
And while the landscape clearly still leans in the GOP’s direction, it’s suddenly more complicated with just 26 days to go. Republican-held seats in Kansas, Georgia, and South Dakota are far more competitive than the GOP would like, and losing any of them would make it that much more difficult to seize control of the chamber.
Watch this space.