Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, would lose in an election to a prominent state Republican, according to a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Former Rep. John Thune was picked by 46 percent of South Dakota voters over Mr. Daschle's 44 percent, according to the survey conducted last month by McLaughlin & Associates.
Mr. Thune served three terms as South Dakota's lone House member before stepping down in 2002 to challenge Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson and losing by just 524 votes.
The Bush administration had recruited Mr. Thune for the Johnson race and is expected to back him in the 2004 Republican primary, if he decides to run again, for Mr. Daschle's seat.
Thune probably won the last election if you took the time to toss the questionable votes, but instead of complaining and demanding an investigation, he handled it with class. A big part of the campaign to re-elect Johnson rested on the idea that South Dakota would be better served if homeboy Daschel remained Senate Majority Leader. Since Johnson’s Democratic seat was important to that, a popular John Thune was cast off. Johnson won, but it didn’t make a difference. The deciding factor will probably be Daschel's thoughts of the presidency, which made him drop off his moderate cloak. He's since dropped those plans, but his opposition to a popular president that his state elected Bush in 2000 means trouble for him. He's been moving leftward as Bush defeats terrorist nations.