In a special election that both parties maintain holds special significance for the November contests, Democrat Stephanie Herseth narrowly held off Republican Larry Diedrich to take over the remainder of Bill Janklow’s term in Congress. Herseth’s narrow margin, however, means the two will meet again in November:
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Herseth had 124,647 votes, or 51 percent, to Larry Diedrich’s 121,719 votes, or 49 percent. … Her victory gave the Democrats two straight triumphs this year in special elections waged for GOP-held seats, and coincided with Democratic claims that a national tide is running their way ahead of the fall campaign.
Jay Reding live-blogged the election, which shows you what a dedicated blogger Jay is; would anyone else in the blogosphere live-blog an election in South Dakota? His conclusion:
At the same time, it’s a Pyrrhic victory for the Democrats. Stephanie Herseth may give the Democrats a seat in Congress, but she’ll have to give her vote to Bush more often than not. At this point she will not have much of a mandate at all, and she could well face a tough campaign this November. She can’t afford to lose that crucial Republican crossover vote that gave her this narrow margin. She can’t afford to link herself with the more extremist wing of the Democratic Party – if she does, she’s toast.
Moreover, Daschle should be worried. A very moderate Democrat with a very positive image is barely able to squeak by. What chance does a highly-partisan Democrat who has spend millions only to run neck-and-neck with someone who hasn’t spend a dime have? The Democrats will be gloating over a Herseth win, but it may be a case of counting one’s chickens before they’ve hatched.
One other item I’ll add to Jay’s analysis — Herseth won by being on the same ballot as the Democratic primary. How much effect that had on the outcome is debatable, since Kerry has long since clinched the nomination. I agree with Jay about her latitude in voting along party lines, and I still think Daschle loses in November. Still, I’d rather that Diedrich won than be conducting optimistic analyses this morning.