(CNN) - Last week, all systems were go for Kevin Weiland to challenge fellow South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in the Democratic primary.
He put out a statement about his intentions and even launched a campaign Web site. But on Wednesday, Weilend decided to forgo a campaign to unseat the congresswoman.
It was the second time this month that Herseth Sandlin has avoided a primary challenger motivated, in part, by her opposition to President Obama's health care reform efforts.
Steve Hildebrand, a top campaign strategist for Obama, was the first person to threaten a challenge. He decided against it after the health care legislation was approved by Congress, and Hildebrand endorsed Weiland's challenge to Herseth Sandlin.
Washington (CNN) – A South Dakota doctor will challenge Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in the Democratic primary, a close friend tells CNN.
Herseth Sandlin had avoided a primary challenge when former Obama campaign official Steve Hildebrand decided not to run against her, which he said he seriously considered because of her vote against the Democratic health care reform bill. She was one of 34 House Democrats who voted against the legislation on Sunday.
Hildebrand, in an email to allies this afternoon, will now endorse Kevin Weiland, a doctor from Rapid City.
Washington (CNN) – Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will avoid a primary fight for her South Dakota seat, sidestepping a potentially divisive Democratic battle with a top campaign official to President Obama.
Steve Hildebrand told CNN last week he was seriously considering challenging Herseth Sandlin if she voted against health care reform or if the vote was close.
Herseth Sandlin did vote against the bill, which passed late Sunday evening by a 219 to 212 margin. But Hildebrand said Monday morning that the margin of victory was wide enough, and that Democratic leaders could have called in more Democratic votes but chose to allow some lawmakers to oppose the measure because of "their own politics."
"I am not going to run," Hildebrand, Obama's deputy national campaign manager in 2008, said in an interview. "I made a commitment to myself and to others that if we lost the health care battle because of Stephanie Herseth's opposition that I would have challenged her in the primary. Even though she voted no, it passed. I will continue to encourage her to support progressive legislation, and I will encourage others to use their voice loudly in South Dakota to move her votes into the Democratic column."
Hildebrand, a liberal, is often at odds politically with Herseth Sandlin, a leader in the conservative "Blue Dog" coalition.
Hildebrand said he received strong support for a potential bid from within his state as well as Democrats nationwide. A White House official did contact him, Hildebrand said, but only to ask "was I serious."
Washington (CNN) - Senior Obama campaign official Steve Hildebrand is eyeing a Democratic primary challenge to South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a decision he said hinges largely on whether she votes against health care reform later this week.
Hildebrand, deputy national campaign manager for Obama's presidential campaign, told CNN in an exclusive interview that he has been frustrated with Herseth Sandlin's voting record for some time, especially her decision to oppose the House health care reform bill in November. The House is expected to vote again on the issue later this week and a Herseth Sandlin spokesperson has said she plans to vote no again.
"I want to see how she votes on health care," Hildebrand said. "If the vote is very, very close and we lose it or come close to losing it, I will take a serious look at challenging her."
"She is on the wrong side of history," he added.
A Herseth Sandlin spokesman declined to comment on the potential primary challenge.
Hildebrand said he has not spoken to the White House about a potential run, nor has he reached out to Sen. Tim Johnson, D-South Dakota, or former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota. Hildebrand, a close political advisor to Johnson and Daschle, said if he decides to run he will have a "conversation with them."
Washington (CNN) – Mitt Romney, who has racked up thousands of frequent flyer miles over the last year assisting Republican candidates, will make perhaps his most high-profile stop of the 2010 election cycle later this month when he travels to South Dakota to raise money for Sen. John Thune.
Romney will headline a fundraiser for Thune - another telegenic Republican on the list of potential 2012 White House candidates - at a Holiday Inn in Sioux Falls on Feb. 19, a Romney aide told CNN.
With a flurry of campaign stops and financial assistance, Romney put his stamp on the three biggest GOP victories of the last year: the Virginia and New Jersey governors races and the special Senate election in Massachusetts.
The presidential buzz around Thune has grown louder over the last year thanks to a visit to Iowa, a new position in the Senate GOP leadership and a 2010 campaign war chest that keeps growing despite the lack of a serious Democratic challenger. Thune ended 2009 with more than $6 million in the bank.
"After grueling Senate elections in 2002 and 2004, Sen. Thune has learned not to take any chances and to always be prepared," said Thune campaign manager Justin Brasell. "At $100/ticket this event is as much about generating enthusiasm and volunteer sign ups as it is about raising money. We want our entire Republican ticket to win in South Dakota this cycle from the Senate and Gubernatorial races on down, and this event will be a great way to kick off the election year."
The fundraiser was first reported by the National Journal.
(CNN) - In South Dakota, domestic-minded Democratic primary voters had a different pick than their foreign-policy focused peers.
Voters who said their top concern was the state of the nation’s economy voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama, 58 to 42 percent. But those who said the war in Iraq was their No. 1 concern supported Obama over Clinton by an even wider margin: 61-39 percent.
Obama’s early opposition to the Iraq war has made him the top pick for voters most worried about that conflict – but are international concerns taking a back seat to economic woes?
(CNN) - We've talked all season about Barack Obama's problem with those white working class voters, those blue collar voters. Is that problem persisting?
Yes, it is. South Dakota’s Democratic primary voters with no college degree voted as their peers in previous contests had: for Hillary Clinton over Obama, 60-40 percent. Meanwhile, well-educated, white collar voters continue to back the Illinois senator. Take a look at college graduates in the state: they voted for Obama, 53 to 47 percent.
The effort to win over these working-class voters is just beginning for Obama – and it looks like he has his work cut out for him.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Federal election monitors are being dispatched to South Dakota to protect Native American voting rights on Tuesday, the final day of primary elections in the Democratic presidential nomination race.
Officials in the Justice Department's civil rights division announced they would send an unspecified number of observers "to watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations" in Todd, Shannon, Bennett, Jackson, and Mellette counties in South Dakota.
Native Americans comprise more than 94 percent of the population in Shannon County, and 85 percent of the population in Todd County. More than 40 percent of residents in the two counties live below the poverty line.
Native Americans make up more than 8 percent of the state's population, making them the largest minority group in South Dakota.
(CNN) – Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign released two new South Dakota ads Tuesday.
The television ad “Responsibility” targets President Bush rather than her primary rival Sen. Barack Obama – the latest in a string of positive television spots from the New York senator.
“George Bush’s spending has sent the economy in a tailspin and put Social Security in jeopardy,” says the announcer in the 30-second spot. “Hillary Clinton will stop spending money America doesn’t have.”
“I will get us back to fiscal responsibility,” says Clinton, in a clip drawn from her stump speech.
The 60-second radio ad, “Matters,” takes a veiled swipe at Obama and his supporters. “Some people say the presidential primary in South Dakota doesn’t much matter. That your voice doesn’t really count,” says the announcer. But the bulk of the firepower is directed at Bush’s management of federal spending.
(Full script after the jump)