Former GOP Senator Announces Independent Bid For Senate In South Dakota
Larry Pressler, a Republican who served in the U.S. Senate from South Dakota who served from 1979 through 1997, is running for Senate as an Independent, a bid that could have an impact on the battle for control of the SenatIe:
Is South Dakota ready for a comeback from Larry Pressler?
Turned out of the Senate after three terms by Tim Johnson in 1996, Pressler will run for the same seat 18 years later.
“Today, I am announcing that I am running for the United States Senate, and I intend to win,” Pressler said.
But Pressler, 71, a lifelong Republican who was in the GOP for his entire time in Congress, won’t be in that party’s crowded primary. Instead, he’d run as an independent, giving voters next November a third choice between presumed Democratic nominee Rick Weiland and the Republicans’ top candidate.
“I want to … end the poisonous bipartisan deadlock in Washington,” Pressler said this week.
Long a moderate Republican, Pressler broke with his own party in the past several years. He endorsed Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012. Today, he says he’s a “deficit hawk” who wants to balance the budget in part by cutting back on foreign military spending. That includes canceling unneeded weapons projects and closing some overseas bases.
“Congress is building all kinds of weapons that the Pentagon says we don’t need anymore,” Pressler said.
He considers himself “moderately conservative.” Pressler said he’d have voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but he thinks that it can’t just be repealed now that it’s in place.
“We can’t just be against Obamacare and not be for something else,” Pressler said. “We have to fix it up now.”
The real question, of course, is whether Pressler really has any kind of shot in a race that, at least at the moment, is viewed as one of the GOP’s best shots for a pickup next year, or whether his presence in the race would have a significant impact on the race even if he’s unlikely to win. For the moment at least, veteran political analyst Stu Rothenberg seems skeptical:
“It’s hard for me to believe that people are going to take Larry Pressler seriously as a contender for the United States Senate,” said Stu Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report. “There will be some people who like the idea that he’s not a Republican or Democrat, and are so outraged with Washington that they say we need an independent. But it’s not as easy as that.”
Rothenberg said Pressler’s shift from Republican senator to endorsing Obama to now running as an independent might confuse voters and opens Pressler up to attacks. Pressler, too, predicted he’d be hit from all sides.
The first test will be in the initial rounds of polling over the coming months or two. Pressler may end up polling higher than you’d expect from a third-party candidate thanks to his name recognition, although the fact that he’s been out of office since 1997 may reduce the impact of that particular variable. As for which candidate he might help in a General Election, that’s hard to say and something we’ll have to wait for polling to start telling us.