The Senate race in South Dakota is unexpectedly tightening as the former Republican governor who had been leading the polls has been losing ground in a three-way race.
A new poll from Survey USA shows support among likely voters for Republican Mike Rounds falling to 35%, while Independent Larry Pressler is at 32%, and Democrat Rick Weiland is at 28%, according to the Aberdeen News, which commissioned the poll along with two local radio stations. Tea party activist Gordon Howie, who’s also running as an Independent, is at 3%, while 2% remain undecided. The poll surveyed 616 likely voters and has a 4% margin of error.
Rounds has long been favored to win the seat, which has largely fallen under the radar this election cycle. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly wrote the race off as a loss,refusing to endorse Weiland, and most previous polls had Rounds leading by double digits.
But Rounds’s support appears to have fallen amid the growing controversy over a foreign investor visa program known as EB-5, which expanded under his term as governor. Investigators flagged suspicious financial transactions in the program, and the Rounds official who oversaw the program was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound before he was called to testify in front of a state grand jury last year.
Survey USA found that 56% of voters believe the former governor needs to say more about the EB-5 program, which gives green cards to foreign investors who sink at least $500,000 into economic development programs, provided that they create a certain number of U.S. jobs.
If these numbers are anywhere close to being true, Rounds is very, very beatable. In fact, if Democrats pulled a Kansas here and Weiland withdrew from the race, I'm betting Pressler would end up with a big lead the way Independent Greg Orman has in the Sunflower State right now.
It would be a real gamble, but all the "GOP wins the Senate" models have Rounds winning this seat that retiring Democrat Tim Johnson is giving up. If that's suddenly not the case, November just got real interesting.