Former South Dakota GOP Gov. Mike Rounds officially announced his 2014 Senate bid Thursday, making him the GOP's second strong Senate recruit to announce a bid last week -- the other being Rep. Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia. His announcement prompted a statement from Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson in which he seemed to move toward saying he'd run for reelection. But it's too soon to say if the field is set in the Mount Rushmore state.
If not Rounds, who? So far, the name that comes up as a potential primary foe for the former governor is GOP Rep. Kristi Noem, the state's only representative in Congress. The 41-year-old, just elected to her second term, has proven herself a strong fundraiser. She is also viewed as more conservative than Rounds and could excite the right. So far -- after leaping at the chance to attack Capito when she announced her Senate bid early last week -- the Club for Growth has said they aren't focused on the South Dakota race.
Soon after Rounds's Thursday announcement, Noem declined to rule out her own Senate bid. "It's too early for that. People are tired of campaigning," Noem said, per the Argus News Leader. "They really want to see our elected officials get back to work now that the election is over."
Over on the Democratic side, Johnson is frequently mentioned as an incumbent senator who could opt for retirement rather than a reelection bid (he underwent emergency brain surgery back in 2006). He didn't rule out retirement in a Thursday statement, but the tenor of the press release was that he planned on moving forward with a run. Johnson said that, though he'll make a formal announcement next year, he fully intends to "put together a winning campaign in the weeks and months ahead."
But if Johnson does ultimately opt against another run, two names are floating around as potentially strong alternatives: Former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, and Johnson's son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson.
A South Dakota Democratic operative says that Herseth Sandlin "would be a very formidable candidate," who has good credibility and national ties. Herseth Sandlin was defeated in the GOP wave year of 2010, by Noem, who beat her by a few points after a tough campaign.
The Democratic operative notes that Brendan Johnson would bring a "unique background" to a bid, and that he's good on the stump. He was confirmed as U.S. Attorney in 2009, and had bipartisan support in the state for the role.