District by district - South Dakota

SOUTH DAKOTA-AT LARGE

Undecided Republicans up for grabs

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) leads Republican Kristi Noem 45 percent to 42, with 10 percent of likely voters undecided, according to The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll.

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There are a large number of undecided Republicans in this district, which Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried in 2008. Of those self-identified GOP voters, 13 percent said they are undecided. Among those who have made up their minds, 19 percent support Herseth Sandlin. Meanwhile, Noem wins 10 percent of the Democratic vote.

Herseth Sandlin is winning independents by 12 points. She’s also leading by 17 points among women. Noem leads among male voters by 13 points.

The three-term incumbent gets high marks from voters: Fifty-six percent rated her favorably, while 38 percent said the opposite. Fifty-one percent view Noem favorably, but 40 percent view her unfavorably. Voters also see Herseth Sandlin’s experience as a good thing — 47 percent said her time in Washington is a reason to vote for her.

And, in contrast to what national polls have shown, more Democrats than Republicans are enthusiastic about voting here. The poll found 98 percent of Democrats said they are passionate about voting, while 91 percent of Republicans said the same.

This is Herseth Sandlin’s most serious challenge to date. She won by 40 points in 2006 and, in 2008, won with 68 percent. The Blue Dog Democrat voted against healthcare reform and has been endorsed by the NRA. She is the first female South Dakota sent to Congress and, at 39, the youngest woman serving in the lower chamber.

Republicans have outspent Democrats here. The DCCC has spent about $82,000 while the NRCC has spent about $726,768. Outside groups have also spent heavily. And, in a surprise to political observers, Noem outraised Herseth Sandlin in the third quarter.

This race has gotten a lot of national attention, especially when reports surfaced that Noem has 28 past traffic violations. Democrats made this an issue, showing an ad blasting Noem’s driving record and hinting it could endanger children. The Noem campaign criticized the ad.

The Hill poll was conducted Oct. 16-19 by Penn Schoen Berland. The survey consisted of 399 phone interviews among likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.

-- This story was updated at 3:51 p.m.

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