2012 Campaign: Incumbents Could Be Vulnerable

The 2012 general election is still more than a year away, but South Dakota’s U.S. House race is heating up. One Democrat has already jumped into the race and political experts say with the dissent for what’s going on in Washington, incumbents could be on the hot seat.

Republican Kristi Noem defeated a popular incumbent less than a year ago by attacking former Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, telling South Dakotans it was time to cut spending and that Americans wanted change.

“If there’s a viable candidate out there, I think she could be vulnerable at least run a tough race,” Augustana College political science professor Brent Lerseth said.

Lerseth says voters might be fed up with what they see going on in Washington and says the same thing could happen to Noem this year.

“The standoff over the debt ceiling and the likelihood of tough discussions over the budget this fall, I think anybody in Congress right now is going to take a few hits whether they are Republicans or Democrats,” Lerseth said.

Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth announced this week his intentions to run for the U.S. House and he’s already using some of those political tactics.

“He’s talking about wanting to acknowledge the fact you can’t just cut all the time. That government does have a function and you sometimes have to take on some debt in order to deal with economic concerns,” Lerseth said.

Lerseth thinks Noem will be tough to beat in the primary as the incumbent, but voters may have other ideas as we get closer to election day.

“A lot of it will depend how the economy does over the next year. If we enter into another recession, then that’s going to hurt everyone in Washington as they’re running for re-election,” Lerseth said.

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