Despite opinions voiced by numerous national pundits that Republicans this fall are assured of picking up the seat of retiring Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), Republican nominee and former two-term Gov. Mike Rounds insisted to Newsmax yesterday that his triumph in November is not a foregone conclusion.
“I never take anything for granted and I’m not taking the Senate race for granted,” Rounds told us. “The only way to win a race is to wake up every single day and find five more votes.”
Rounds, who served as state Senate majority leader before winning the governorship in 2002, spoke to Newsmax two weeks after CBS-TV’s John Dickerson became the latest political reporter to say the GOP is certain to pick up of Johnson’s open Senate seat. Three states in which Democratic senators are retiring, Dickerson told “CBS This Morning,” are “gone” for the Democrats.
Just a week ago, a SurveyUSA showed among likely voters statewide showed Rounds leading Democrat Rick Weiland by a margin of 39 percent to 28 percent. Another 25 percent went to former Sen. Larry Pressler (R-South Dakota), who is running as an independent 18 years after he was unseated by Democrat Johnson.
Stalwart conservative Rounds spelled out some “big ideas” he hoped to pursue if elected.
Stressing that “you’re part of a team when you’re a senator,” the former majority leader of the South Dakota Senate said his top priority would be to work with colleagues to pass a budget. In his words, “that’s what takes priority—an actual, operating budget.”
But of equal and critical importance, Rounds quickly added, “is to make Congress accountable and stop what the bureaucracy is doing. Whether it is the National Labor Relations Board, the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, or the Department of Education, to name a few, unelected bureaucrats are increasingly making the law of the land.”
The answer to this, he strongly believes, “is to enact the Reins Act—to rein in the bureaucracy. This bill would ensure that any new rule proposed [by a government agency] that would cost $100 million or more in economic impact cannot go into effect. It needs to be approved by both the House and Senate. I plan to fight for it.”
While conceding that Obamacare is on the books until a Republican president signs a repeal passed by a Republican House and Senate, Rounds insisted that “before that time, you can take a lot of Obamacare apart piece by piece, section by section.” He specifically cited the individual mandate and Section 3403 (the Independent Payment Advisory Board) as parts of the controversial health care measure that could be repealed.
“And I think you’ll find many Democrats voting to repeal these sections,” the South Dakotan predicted. “Look, this is a job-killing plan and it is on the books when health care costs are going up. It needs to be repealed but it also needs to be replaced by a plan that is market-driven and patient-oriented.”
Regarding opponent Weiland, a onetime aide to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-South Dakota), and the issues on which they differ, Rounds cited “the Keystone XL Pipeline, which I would vote to build and he opposes, and universal gun registration, which I oppose strongly and he supports. And where I want to rein in the EPA, and stop it from pushing a carbon tax that will cost every family member in America $140 a year, he takes the opposite position.”
Rounds added that Weiland wants to expand Obamacare, “and I want to repeal and replace it.”
As for the insurgent Pressler and which of the major party candidates he was taking votes from, Rounds said “he takes liberal votes from the Democrats because he was a Republican-for-Obama in ’12 and contributed money to [Obama]. And was a part of an amicus brief in court to overturn the part of the South Dakota Constitution that says marriage is between a man and a woman.”
But Rounds also conceded that he could also lose support to the former senator from voters who remember Pressler as a Republican official.
As upbeat and confident as he is that he will be doing things in the Senate next year, Rounds nonetheless voiced dismay with the pundits who predict his easy election. In his words, “You can’t take South Dakotans for granted. You’ve got to earn their votes.”
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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