'Dose of South Dakota Common Sense' Takes the Day in Very Red Election

What did former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds know and when did he know it about the EB-5 green card for foreign investment scandal that dogged him the past year in the South Dakota U.S. Senate race?

It didn’t and doesn’t matter.

Rounds handily defeated three opponents Tuesday night. Rounds, the Republican, just edged over 50 percent, while Democrat Rick Weiland polled just under 30 percent, former U.S. Senator and independent Larry Pressler polled 17 percent and tea party independent Gordon Howie scored 3 percent.

Recent polling showed that voters’ concern over Rounds’ involvement in the EB-5 matter roughly broke into thirds—a third of South Dakotans said it influenced their vote, a third said it didn’t and a third were undecided.

And who were the third that said it influenced their vote? Largely Democrats who weren’t going to vote for Rounds anyway.

Rounds’ win was one of the seven Senate Republican pickups election night, giving the Republicans a majority in the Senate. The shift in power also likely means that South Dakota’s now senior senator, John Thune, moves up to chair the Senate Commerce Committee. Thune already is the third-ranking Republican in the Senate as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Rounds’ central campaign theme was bringing “South Dakota common sense” to Washington, D.C. How that differs from “North Dakota common sense” or even “New York common sense” is yet to be seen.

However, the meme continued election night during his victory speech at the state Republican Party soirée at The District nightclub in Sioux Falls.

“The people of South Dakota sent a message of home, of true belief, of change in Washington, D.C.,” Rounds said. “Dysfunction is not allowed. We will fix it with a dose of South Dakota common sense.”

Another theme was Rounds saying he lost sleep at night about whether his dad—whom he called “Grandpa Don” in TV ads—would continue to get the healthcare he needs because of what Rounds claims will be reduced funding of Medicare because of the Affordable Care Act. Mike probably doesn’t need to worry. The elder Rounds was a longtime lobbyist for the petroleum industry in South Dakota.

“We want to repeal and replace Obamacare section by section,” Rounds said at his election night speech. “You sent a message that the bureaucracy is out of control in Washington, D.C.”

And to further burnish his conservative credential, Rounds added, “We want government out of the backyards and farms of South Dakota.”

Rounds said during the campaign that he would work to abolish the U.S. Department of Education and the EPA.

Rounds’ victory was the tip of the spear for South Dakota Republicans. In an already vermilion state, Republicans turned it completely blood red.

Rounds and GOP Rep. Kristi Noem each won re-election by over 30 points. Republicans swept all statewide offices such as attorney general and secretary of state. And state Republicans, which already had supermajorities in both houses of the legislature, picked up a net gain of four seats of the 105 members. Republicans won 58 of 60 contested legislative races.

It’s been over 50 years since the Republicans—which have not lost a governor’s race since 1974—have had such complete control of state and federal government in the Mount Rushmore State.