Wednesday, September 27, 2006

South Dakota Governor Race

Race of the Day

September 27, 2006
41 Days Until Election Day

South Dakota Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Safe Republican

In a 2002 GOP primary, two better-known Republicans launched a number of attacks against either other and the end result was that they both lost, as turned-off Republicans nominated Mike Rounds for Governor of South Dakota. He went on to easily win election that year in the Republican friendly state and for most of his term has had among the highest approval ratings of any Governor in America.

Those numbers did take a bit of a hit earlier this year, as Rounds made national headlines, by signing a bill passed by the Republican controlled state legislature which outlaws all abortions in South Dakota, except those that would be deemed necessary to save the life of the mother. Rounds had joined many Pro-Lifers in wanting the bill to also include an exception for rape and incest, but that was not included in the legislation and Rounds signed it anyway. South Dakota has just one abortion clinic.

After that occurrence, Rounds’ approval rating, which had been in the 70 percent range, dropped to around a percent in the high 50s. As the months have passed though, polling data indicates that Rounds has been able to gain back much of the support he might have lost during that time period, and he is believed to be well-ahead of his Democrat opponent, physician and former State Representative Jack Billion, who had won a competitive primary for the right to take part in such an uphill race. In what appears to be the only poll taken on the race, from earlier this past summer, Rounds leads Billion by almost 30 points.

The abortion legislation is basically tied up in the courts system now and likely would not take effect until and unless Roe vs. Wade would be overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the abortion issue will be the major backdrop around the state’s Gubernatorial election as voters will be going to polls to cast their ballot on an initiative expressing whether or not the state supports a ban on abortion. That ballot question is somewhat up in the air as to which side would win, but polls have indicated that had the question allowed for a rape and incest exception, it would have passed easily in the Pro-Life state. Regardless of how people feel about whether an exception should have been included or not, the vote in South Dakota will be one of much symbolism on the contentious abortion debate.

As for Rounds vs. Billion, the incumbent Republican will likely benefit from a strong turnout among religious conservative voters and other Pro-Lifers. There will also be motivation to oppose Rounds and the ban, but probably significantly less organized and passionate than the other side. That factor, plus the popularity of Rounds’ overall tenure of Governor makes him an easy favorite to win another term.

Rounds campaign link:

Vote Yes for Life:

2006 Governor races predicted thus far: 12 D, 19 R
Post-election total of Governors predicted thus far: 20 D, 25 R