Republican presidential primary heading to South Dakota June 5Insiders claim state will, like 2008, have say in helping pick presidential nominee.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
Even with one of the last presidential primaries in the nation, voters in South Dakota may play a critical role in 2012 if no clear frontrunner emerges for the Republican Party’s nomination.
Voters in South Dakota’s 2012 Republican primary will go to the polls on June 5 — more than five months after the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus began this year’s race for the presidential nomination.
As the top potential Republican nominees like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum continue exchanging blows in primaries across it becomes more the country, likely South Dakota’s primary, and its 28 delegates, will play a role in choosing the next nominee.
Since Romney hasn’t been able to garner 50 percent of the vote in major primaries, it looks like this race will continue to the South Dakota primary, said Don Simmons, dean of the College of Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan University.
“I think that’s good for the state,” Simmons said. “It gets people engaged in the political process.”
South Dakota will share its June 5 primary date with three other states — New Mexico, New Jersey and California.
“June 5 is going to be an important primary date, especially when you have those other states in there,” said state Rep. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell. “We obviously don’t have the population California does, but that’s going to be an important date.”
In past elections, many states have attempted to increase their significance in the presidential primaries by moving their primary to an earlier date, but Simmons said he would keep South Dakota’s primary as is.
“It’s nice for South Dakota to be toward the end in years like this,” he said. “We can play a major role in shaping party politics and policy, as well as choosing a nominee.”
Candidates in the 2008 presidential primaries certainly felt South Dakota would play a major role, as the state received visits from both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during their race for the Democratic nomination.
South Dakota had the latest primary date in the nation in 2008 — June 3 — but still received attention from the potential nominees. Mitchell saw its share of campaigning as well, as Obama held a rally on June 1, 2008, in front of the Corn Palace and spoke to an audience of about 2,000 people.
Former President Bill Clinton, campaigning for his wife, spoke to about 250 people at Dakota Wesleyan University that May.
Hillary Clinton won the 2008 South Dakota Democratic primary by 10 points, but Obama clinched the nomination that same day.
“It would be hard to match the intensity in 2008,” said Jon Lauck, a senior advisor to Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. “It goes to show that in South Dakota, grass roots campaigning and working main streets can pay off for you.”
Rep. Vehle said any potential presidential nominee could benefit from visiting South Dakota.
“We have balanced budgets here. We know how to make the tough decisions,” Vehle said, also mentioning the state’s low unemployment rate and relatively strong economy.
“There is a lot to be learned from South Dakota if (the candidates) come here.”
Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pose the start of the South Carolina Republican presidential candidate debate Jan. 16.