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Political Advisor: House Race A 'Slugfest'

September 22, 2010, 4:58 PM by David Brown

Political Advisor: House Race A 'Slugfest'
SIOUX FALLS, SD - South Dakota's most-watched race is getting more attention by the day.  Wednesday's Wall Street Journal calls the U.S. House race a toss-up, while the New York Times also says it's too close to call.

Incumbent Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and challenger Kristi Noem have even caught the attention of the San Francisco Chronicle, where one blogger calls it a political shootout and one of the 10 most important house races of 2010.

The attention has undoubtedly been helped by the swing in polls. August's Rasmussen survey had Noem ahead by nine percent, while the latest poll gave Herseth Sandlin a two percent lead.  One advisor believes this neck-and-neck affair will come down to the wire.

David Lillehaug knows politics. The Minneapolis attorney has been a consultant for a handful of U.S. politicians, including Stephanie Herseth Sandlin during her first campaign, as well as Minnesota's current senators. 

"I'll tell you, in Minnesota, we had a real slugfest in 2008 with Al Franken against Norm Coleman," Lillehaug said.  "But it looks like Stephanie vs. Kristi, I mean, it's just the first names, is turning into that kind of slugfest this time around. And we're watching it with great interest next door and that's true around the country as well."

Lillehaug says the first midterms following a presidential election are always challenging for incumbents, and a combination of factors gave Herseth Sandlin the lead in the latest Rasmussen poll. 

"It looks to me like Stephanie Herseth returned for the August recess, did a lot of connecting with people here, and it never hurts when there's some negative stories about your opponent too," Lillehaug said.  "And so, now I think South Dakotans are beginning to compare the two and I think it's going to be a slugfest down to the end."

Lillehaug cautions, however, the resentment and anger some voters feel toward Democrats is out there, and that could work in Noem's favor. 

"It's an anti-incumbent year," Lillehaug said.  "There's a lot of concern about spending, but at the same time, people are hurting and need help from Washington and from Pierre. So there's a lot of cross-currents here and that's one reason this Herseth Sandlin vs. Noem race is so intriguing. You're seeing a lot of those cross-currents play out in that race."

Most of the national stories on the race don't even mention the third candidate, Independent B. Thomas Marking.  Yet, depending on how close the race is on Election Day, he could end up playing a major role as to who comes out on top.

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