Ten years ago he almost didn’t run for governor. His friendly, homespun campaign proved to be the right answer in an ugly time.
Mike Rounds no longer is the underdog. Now he is the intimidator.
No longer governor because of term limits, he set out on a new way to hold influence. He spread money into this year’s legislative races like no other politician before him in South Dakota.
The message was clear. Republicans not only should continue to rule, but their grip must not weaken. The intended result was achieved.
He also formed an exploratory committee for a candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Today, he took the next step.
With this year’s election results not even a month old, and the winners still a month from taking office, he kicked off the 2014 campaign. He became the first candidate to officially announce for U.S. Senate.
Go ahead, the Rounds camp dared the world, just try to get this seat away from us.
For those who watched Mike Rounds closely during his two terms as governor, there remains a debate about how a seemingly humble man became focused on symbols of prestige and wealth.
Did he change, or was that side of him — the mansions, the second jet, the short days and short weeks that led key staff to move on — always there?
After Rounds left as governor, Dennis Daugaard, his lieutenant governor, won the 2010 Republican nomination for governor through hard work and with Rounds’ support.
Daugaard spent his first year cleaning up the budget problems and restoring some frugality to state government, such as reducing salaries that had been paid to the Rounds Cabinet members.
Looking to 2014, if Daugaard seeks re-election, he and Rounds will be on the ballot together.
For the next two years then, Daugaard could be the third man in the U.S. Senate race, facing questions that will arise over Rounds’ eight years as governor.
Those questions of course will depend if anyone seeks to run against Rounds and is willing to ask them.
The Rounds’ announcement today seems to have closed the door to those who hoped Daugaard might be the right person at the right time to be South Dakota’s next U.S. senator.
The door also seems to have closed for those who think U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, fresh off her first re-election, would have been a better conservative candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
The Democrats meanwhile are down to their last experienced, statewide candidate in Sen. Johnson.
Johnson, who turns 66 on Dec. 28, is still physically limited because of emergency brain surgery Dec. 13, 2006.
Two years ago, through seniority, he ascended to chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. His selection nonetheless would seem to attest to his continuing intellectual ability.