Ratings Change: South Dakota Senate from Republican Favored to Lean Republican

by Stuart Rothenberg October 13, 2014 · 8:31 AM EDT

Republican Mike Rounds continues to underperform in what has become a whacky three-way fight (four-way, if you count the Libertarian on the ballot). While the state’s Republican bent could well bail him out in November, and the NRSC has allocated money for the race, we can no longer rule out the possibility of a strange outcome.

Former governor Rounds holds a narrow lead over former Republican senator Larry Pressler, with Democrat Rick Weiland running third but not out of the race. Republican insiders groan about Rounds’ poor campaign and weak fundraising, as well as the candidate’s underwhelming performance on the stump.

Pressler has been saying nice things about Obama and clearly has appeal to Democrats, but he is also getting a chunk of Republicans who don’t like Rounds. National Democratic strategists seem to be content with either Pressler or Weiland winning, and they are focusing their attacks on tearing down the Republican rather than choosing one of the alternatives to him.

South Dakota now looks like a better Democratic opportunity than either Kentucky or Georgia, primarily because of the confusion caused by the three-way race. None of the three contenders can be ruled out, since the winner may need only a little more than one-third of the vote.

We are moving this race from Republican Favored to Lean Republican.