Friday, August 24, 2007

Prairie Democrats Make Showing

Attempting to demonstrate the extent of his rehabilitation, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) will make a public appearance and speech next Tuesday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota's largest city, eight months after a severe cerebral haemorrhage which curtailed his public activities and put into question his political viability. While no major Republican politician in the state has stepped forward to challenge him yet (although many expect term-limited Gov. Rounds ultimately to challenge), his prolonged absence from the Senate has begun to raise increasing criticism in letters to the editor of the state's paper of record. While most South Dakotans have so far been reluctant openly to hold Johnson's health against him, this upcoming appearance will be heavily covered in the local media and a key bellwether in shaping opinion as to Sen. Johnson's fitness to continue in office.

One can presume that Johnson and his staff feel like they're ready for this, since the event is one entirely of their own construction, but any misstep could completely gut his reelection hopes, so one could view this as a needless risk, unless the background chatter his campaign was hearing indicated that further political absenteeism was potentially even more threatening.

One state to the south, another formerly active Senator, Bob Kerrey, made waves in the local media without even the offering the possibility of setting foot in the state. It was reported in the Omaha World-Herald that Kerrey, who retired from the Senate in 2000 and hasn't even lived in the state since then, was considering running once more for the Senate if, as expected, alleged Republican Chuck Hagel announces his retirement from the Senate. Kerrey parachuted from the Senate into the presidency of the New School University in New York City, and has been a political nonentity in Nebraska since then. The media excitement surrounding Kerrey, perhaps best known for his widely-cited quote that Bill Clinton was "an unusually good liar," is evidence more of the weakness of the Democratic Party in Nebraska, than of the actual political prospects of Kerrey's return to the state.

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