Friday, December 18, 2009

Tim Johnson's Standing

One of the more interesting findings in our South Dakota poll was that voters in the state are pretty evenly divided in their feelings about Tim Johnson, with 46% approving of his job performance and 45% disapproving.

It shouldn't be a big surprise that South Dakotans have mixed feelings about Johnson- he won his Senate seat 51-49 in 1996 and then won reelection just 50-49 in 2002. But he won an easy reelection last year against weak Republican opposition in the aftermath of serious health problems that emerged in late 2006.

Johnson's numbers compared unfavorably to those of Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, perhaps because he has been more supportive of the agenda of President Obama and Congressional Democrats who sport 41% and 28% approval ratings respectively with voters in the state. Johnson has limited crossover support now, with 24% of Republicans approving of his job performance compared to 42% who approve of Herseth Sandlin. He has, however, maintained a higher level of popularity with the party base at 75% approval to 63% for his House colleague.

Johnson's numbers don't really matter all that much at this point though with his next reelection battle five years away. I think Republicans would have a slight advantage for this seat if it was up in 2010 but timing is everything in politics, especially when it comes to Senators. Look for example at the fate of Richard Burr- he squeaked in in a good year for the GOP in 2004 and now it looks like he'll stand for reelection in another good Republican year. If he'd been up in 2006 or 2008 he might have been as good as done.

Whether South Dakota Republicans like it or not, after not giving Johnson a strong challenge in 2008 they've got him for another five years.

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