Spoiler alert: Larry Pressler's bid for the U.S. Senate could siphon plenty of votes from one of the major party candidates in next year's general election. That's according to a longtime South Dakota political analyst who's assessing Pressler's chances of recapturing his old seat.
Pressler formally announced on Thursday that he's running for the U.S. Senate. Retired SDSU political science professor Bob Burns says Pressler's chances of winning are slim, mostly because he's running as an independent. However, Pressler could take away votes from whoever becomes the Republican nominee.
A familiar face has re-emerged on South Dakota's political landscape. And Pressler's name recognition alone could serve him well in the 2014 U.S. Senate race.
"I think he could be a real spoiler. I think he could draw enough votes to impact the outcome of the election," Burns said.
Burns says Pressler will appeal to South Dakota voters fed-up with government gridlock. Pressler's years on Capitol Hill and reputation as a political moderate could work in his favor.
"He has the benefit of experience in Washington and also the benefit of not being part of the action today, so he can make some good observations about how things can be done better," Burns said.
Burns says the former Republican could also have some built-in advantages among independent voters in South Dakota.
"We have about 17 percent of all of our registered voters who are independents. In the last few elections, the independents have gone heavily Republican in their voting. Larry Pressler might draw heavily from those independent votes. The more they go toward him, the fewer votes the Republican candidate will take in," Burns said.
On the flip side, Burns says Pressler will face a backlash from hardline Republicans for his endorsement of President Obama. A senate candidacy that many observers consider a longshot will add plenty of intrigue to an already crowded field.
Burns says how many votes Pressler takes from the Republican candidate depends upon how united, or divided, the party is after next year's primary.
Independents and third-party candidates have never fared well in South Dakota U.S. Senate races. According to the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, only six of them have made the statewide ballot since 1938. That compares to 65 candidates in Minnesota and 47 in Iowa.