SD-Sen: Republicans Have Another Massive Recruitment Failure
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Mar 10, 2008 at 09:40:54 AM EDT
With Republican Governor Mike Rounds demurring on the possibility of a Senate run against Democratic Senator Tim Johnson, the Senate GOP turned to scraping the bottom of the barrel to try to come up with another candidate -- who might serve as just the second conceivably viable challenger to a Democrat this cycle (the other being John Kennedy to Mary Landrieu in Louisiana). To this end, the National Republican Senatorial Committee worked hard to try to recruit former Lieutenant Governor Steve Kirby to run against Johnson. But that wasn't to be.
Former Lt. Gov. Steve Kirby told the Argus Leader this morning that he will not challenge Sen. Tim Johnson in this year's Senate race.
Kirby, a Sioux Falls businessman, ended weeks of speculation with the announcement.
Kirby's decision not to seek the GOP nomination leaves three Republicans in the race: Joel Dykstra, the assistant majority leader in the state House; Spearfish businessman Sam Kephart; and former Ambassador Bert Tollefson. With only two weeks left before petitions are due to make the ballot, it's becoming less and less likely that another Republican will enter the race.
Kirby was one of several prominent Republicans courted by the party's leaders in Washington, D.C. to challenge Johnson, who is seeking a third term. He appealed to Republicans because of his statewide name recognition and wealth. But political observers also said he brought some baggage to the table following a bruising campaign for governor in 2002 in which he lost in the primary.
Of course it's worth noting that Johnson comes into this race with a whole lot of strengths, including a 73 percent favorable rating according to Rasmussen Reports. What's more, in head-to-head polling pitting Johnson and Kirby against one another, the Democrat wins by a 62 percent to 32 percent margin, per that same recent Rasmussen poll.
That all said, you can't just look at this recruitment failure in a vacuum; you must look at it in light of everything else that is happening in the race for control over the Senate. Indeed, this was the second major recruitment failure of the last week, on top of the many, many more we've seen throughout this cycle thus far. And with continual recruitment failures and retirement woes, as well as a huge cash-on-hand gap relative to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (we're talking well over 2-to-1, or $29.5 million to $13.2 million, when debts and obligations are taken into account), this is really turning out to be a terrible cycle for John Ensign and the folks at the NRSC.