What’s really going on in the Dem Senate showdown

A couple weeks ago, I predicted that Brendan Johnson would have announced his candidacy by Saturday’s McGovern Day Dinner. Well, that didn’t happen. Johnson was far from the scene on vacation in Las Vegas.

What happened? After all, this would have been the perfect veunue to launch a campaign. Heidi Heitkamp, memories of George McGovern. Hundreds of enthusiastic Democrats and a chance to introduce yourself to them.

Problem is, there are grave concerns among national Democrats about Johnson’s viability. Since he’s an unknown quantity in national circles, the powers that be in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are leaning, perhaps even heavily leaning, for Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

That would indicate to me that Herseth Sandlin has expressed interest in the race, but that she is reluctant to face Johnson in a primary. If the DSCC can keep Johnson out of the race, Herseth Sandlin would be the candidate.

Herseth Sandlin likely knows that she would have a tough primary against Johnson, and a loss to him would not only be embarrassing, but potentially fatal to her future in politics.

The DSCC has poll numbers showing that Herseth Sandlin is the stronger general election match up against Mike Rounds. There is no question in my mind that Herseth Sandlin is still popular with a large swath of the electorate, and she would be a good candidate.

Johnson would be a strong candidate, too. But he would have to make up ground where Herseth Sandlin is already a known quantity among the state’s voters. Still, being an outsider to the state’s political system might be a benefit in the race. No one can accuse him of being a lobbyist.

So if you want to know why the Democrats didn’t have an announced candidate at the McGovern Day Dinner Saturday, blame the DSCC.