Aside from Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle sits atop the Republican hit list in this electoral cycle. Republicans eye him as the front man for obstructing their legislation and judicial nominees in the Senate. Now, they have a strong candidate gunning for Daschle, former Congressman John Thune, who narrowly lost his bid for the Senate against Democrat Tim Johnson by only 524 votes.
Thune has been running a campaign claims that Daschle wears one face in South Dakota of bipartisanship leadership (one example is a Daschle commercial showing him embracing President Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks), while putting partisan politics above South Dakota’s interests in Washington. Particular issues that he has attacked Daschle on have included Iraq, energy policy, and the Senate minority leader’s opposition to a constitutional amendment banning desecration of the American flag.
The burden ultimately lies on Thune to unseat a three-term incumbent of high national prominence. Daschle’s position has also allowed him to deliver several public goods to South Dakota from Washington. However, South Dakotans are not new to sending long-serving incumbents packing, and Daschle’s prominence has put a lot of scrutiny on his record. President Bush’s projected strong showing will add a boost to Thune’s bid.