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Weiland camp pushes back on Reid

An adviser to Democrat Rick Weiland's U.S. Senate campaign said he almost does not believe that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicts a Weiland loss in November.

"We are going to lose in South Dakota, more than likely," Reid told The Associated Press Monday from his offices in Nevada.

Longtime political operative and Mitchell native Steve Jarding said a poll taken within the past week shows Weiland within 8 points of frontrunner and former Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican.

"I look at that and say, 'That's not really Harry Reid.' A leader wouldn't talk like that," Jarding said. "The bottom line is they want to win the seat. With the race starting to get more competitive, it looks like an opportunity for them (the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee)."

In addition to Weiland and Rounds, independents/former Republicans Larry Pressler and Gordon Howie are running in the race to replace retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.

Jarding said he believes Reid's antipathy toward the South Dakota race has more to do with a falling out he had with Tom Daschle, Reid's predecessor as majority leader and a three-term Democratic senator from South Dakota.

"Would Harry Reid, if he were mad at Tom Daschle, give up his leadership position? Clearly the answer is no," Jarding said.

The Reid-Daschle feud, reported in the Capitol Hill press, dates back to mid-2013 after Weiland -- a longtime Daschle aide -- made a surprise entry into the race just days before a deadline Stephanie Herseth Sandlin had set for an announcement in her public deliberation over whether to run in 2014. Daschle publicly supported Weiland's entry into the race, and Reid all but told the Capitol Hill press that he backed Herseth Sandlin, saying Weiland "is not my candidate."

Herseth Sandlin ultimately declined to run, as did Sen. Johnson's son, Brendan Johnson.

When he entered the race, Weiland was considered a longshot, but he has been visiting South Dakota locales almost non-stop since, and the polls are starting to reflect the intense retail campaign effort.

"Rounds is not cracking 50 (percent). He has very high negatives," Jarding said.

Rounds has told The Daily Republic that he is confident he can maintain his lead and win the race in November.

Meanwhile, Pressler is polling several points above 10 percent, and Jarding predicts tea party favorite Howie will rise above his single-digit poll numbers.

Weiland said his biggest deficit has been name ID, but each round of TV ads has yielded a 20- to 30-point bump.

"People are recognizing me," he said of his time on the campaign trail. "Our message is working. ... I'm pretty encouraged with the state of the race."

Weiland did not directly speak to Reid's remarks.

Daschle told The Daily Republic that Weiland is polling better than North Dakota Cinderella Senate candidates Kent Conrad and Heidi Heitkamp were polling at this stage of their first winning races.

"Rick is running an amazing campaign -- full of energy, upbeat," Daschle said. "South Dakota is very much in play."

Daschle was not so bullish on Reid keeping his post as majority leader.

"There are very competitive races all over the country. Predicting the majority in the Senate is too close to call," Daschle said.