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South Dakota Dems Lose Top Recruits South Dakota Dems Lose Top Recruits

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South Dakota Dems Lose Top Recruits

Former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds speaks to a crowd Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, in Pierre, S.D., as he announces that will run for the U.S. Senate in 2014.(AP Photo/Chet Brokaw)

In less than a week's time, Democrats in South Dakota went from debating which of their top-tier candidates would run for retiring Sen. Tim Johnson's seat to wondering whether they'll be competitive at all.

National Democrats long saw former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin as their strongest possible candidate. South Dakota progressives hung their hat on Brendan Johnson, the state's U.S. attorney, as their candidate of choice.

But Johnson hinted last week that he's happy serving as U.S. attorney, and that he would skip a Senate race. And Herseth Sandlin said Monday that she wouldn't be a candidate either. Instead, Democrats are left with Rick Weiland, a former aide to then-Sen. Tom Daschle who has run for and lost two bids for Congress.

South Dakota Democratic Party Chair Ben Nesselhuf told us Johnson hasn't completely ruled out a bid, but it's notable that so many of the supporters who were trying to convince Johnson to run are now showing up as Weiland supporters. And Herseth Sandlin's announcement seemed to make clear that she's not running for anything next year; Democrats might have held out hope that she would challenge Gov. Dennis Daugaard or Rep. Kristi Noem.

South Dakota Democrats won't have to worry about a primary, but that's about the only bit of positive news they can tout today. Former Gov. Mike Rounds, the likely Republican nominee, is an early favorite to win back a Democratic seat.

That is, unless Noem, now serving her second term in office, decides she wants a promotion.

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