One of South Dakota's U.S. Senate seats will be up for grabs in the November 2014 election, but South Dakota voters were already polled last week to gauge public opinion of the possible candidates in each party.
With more than a year and half to go until Election Day, it is the first public poll conducted and released for the 2014 Senate race. At this early stage, the poll asked more than 1,000 registered voters in South Dakota which candidate they would choose in these hypothetical party parings.
Here are some of the poll results:
In a hypothetical race between Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Republican Kristi Noem, 48 percent of those polled said they would choose Herseth Sandlin over Noem's 47 percent.
A race between Herseth Sandlin and former Republican Governor Mike Rounds put rounds ahead with 49 percent of those polled verses 47 percent to Herseth Sandlin.
And if there were a Republican primary race between Rounds and Kristi Noem, 43 percent of those polled said they would vote for rounds while 39 percent said they would vote for Noem.
You can find a full list of the poll results here.
A big unknown in this race is still whether or not current democratic Senator Tim Johnson will run for re-election. The Public Policy Polling results show Herseth Sandlin is favored a head of Senator Johnson.
Rounds says he believes the timing of this poll is meant to force Johnson into retirement, while the democratic party expresses their full confidence in Johnson should he decide to run.
"It would appear as though they are trying to do their best to discourage Senator Johnson from seeking a second term," said Rounds.
"These are very early numbers and I think if Senator Johnson decides he's got another campaign in him, he will put together a winning campaign," said South Dakota Democratic Party Chair Ben Nesselhuf.
This afternoon two national publications, the American Banker and Politico, said Johnson will announce his decision next week.
The possibility that Johnson may end his 26 year stretch in Washington has members of both parities gearing up for a major race.
"It's been 50 years since we had 100 percent Republicans going to Washington from South Dakota and Republicans have a real chance in 2014," said South Dakota Republican Party Co-Chair Craig Lawrence.
Senator Johnson's possible retirement could allow republicans to take both senate seats, but South Dakota's democratic party says whether Johnson runs or not, voters in the state have sent democrats to Washington for a reason.
"I think that largely, South Dakotans don't like monopolies. They don't like it in their sports teams, they don't like it in businesses and I don't think they like it in politics either," said Nesselhuf.
But this senate race reaches far beyond South Dakota, attracting national polls and audiences concerned with the goals of both parties at the national level.
"No matter where you go in America right now, South Dakota is bulls-eye in importance for the next senate cycle; there are people everywhere that are talking about it," said Lawrence.
"There are a lot of folks out there that would like to see two Republican votes rather than canceling each other out as has been done in the past," said Rounds, the only Republican so far to declare he will be running for the 2014 Senate Race.
Those votes have a big impact on both parties when it comes to contentious national issues like gun control or health care.
"If the republicans want to start getting excited about that possibility, I welcome them to start counting those chickens before they've hatched. I think we're in for quite an election year and I think the democrats will do quite well when all is said and done," said Nesselhuf.
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