At first blush--and we Pubs have much to blush about with Mike Rounds as a candidate--it looks like Rounds had an easy go of it in last night's primary. He easily outdistanced his quixotic and underfinanced field of challengers, capturing something like 55% of the overall vote, pretty much as expected and predicted. Money and name-recognition are a formidable combo and they served Rounds well in this first round of the election cycle. He and his supporters have good reason to cheer, but I'm certain they've haven't uncorked the bubbly just yet. Rounds the insurance broker by trade is probably the first to realize that the deal is far from closed.
What is probably most troubling to the Rounds campaign is the plain arithmetic in the final tally. Nearly half--45%--of South Dakota's Republicans preferred another candidate to be their champion in the race for the United States Senate. This is not exactly the kind of unified show of support that a well-known and -financed candidate in a strongly Republican state should like to have going into a general election campaign. Fact is, there are plenty of stirrings of discomfort and outright hostility toward Mike Rounds within SD's GOP. Considering their animosity toward Rounds during the primary chase, I have little doubt that a whole wing of Republicans will jump the party's ship and support an Independent named Gordon Howie, whose ultra-conservative credentials are well-known in South Dakota and more suited to the "true" conservative believers who ran against Rounds in the primary.
Given that the number of Rounds-haters amounted to nearly half the GOP's vote yesterday, this will pose a problem for Mike Rounds. The Independent candidacy of former Republican U.S. Senator Larry Pressler, the run by Howie, and the natural 35%-40% of voters who will likely vote for Democrat Rick Weiland add up to some challenging numbers for Rounds come November. I think the likeliest beneficiary will be Weiland, who has a serious chance of winning this thing with a plurality if enough GOP votes get siphoned away from Rounds and distributed to Pressler and Howie.
On the Dem side, I'm chagrined that party insider Susan Wismer knocked off the dynamic Joe Lowe, whose background and style are much more suited to an executive suite than Wismer's tentative and wishy-washy persona. Wismer went far on party support and name-recognition, particularly in the rural counties of the eastern part of the state, but Dems should ask themselves why Lowe carried Pennington and Minnehaha Counties, where urbanized voters were probably more keenly aware of the differences between the two candidates based on the natural tendency to be more exposed, aware and knowledgeable about the race, thanks to more intense media and personal exposure. Dems might have had a chance with Lowe, but surrendered that possibility by nominating Wismer.
As to the District 33 Senate race in Pennington County, Phil Jensen, the man who would overturn the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by allowing merchants to openly discriminate against anybody of their choosing, pulled it out in a squeaker. The narrowness of that victory suggests that there is still hope for rationalism making a comeback in that district.