Mike Rounds is the latest politician to use a tired old line: He hates politics, doesn’t want to waste his time in office, but, well, you see, duty calls …
Thursday night, Rounds dropped another veil in his long, slow dance that will lead to his eventual candidacy for the Senate seat now occupied by Tim Johnson. Rounds has done everything but film the TV commercials, walk in the parades and order “Rounds for Senate” T-shirts.
At least, I don’t think he has. Yet.
Thursday night, he announced the formation of an exploratory committee for the 2014 Senate race. It seems early, since the 2012 campaign has seven weeks to run, but Rounds is itching to get going.
But he said he doesn’t really want to go to Washington, D.C. Shucks, no, he would just HATE to be a United States senator, but somebody has to go knock some heads together and get those pompous knuckleheads to do the people’s business. And, well, if he has to, he has to.
I spent an hour with Rounds in Pierre during his final days as governor in December 2010 and he said he hadn’t considered a run for another office. I jotted that down, but I don’t think anyone in the room actually believed it.
Since then, he has a shadow campaign team at the ready, there are Rounds for Senate websites set to be launched, he has discussed the election with reporters time and time again and he has now formed the committee that will bring him more attention.
All the while, he says he really doesn’t want to do it. Living and working in Washington! The very idea.
His Republican colleague and potential 2014 GOP primary rival, Rep. Kristi Noem, also cannot stand Washington and those dang bureaucrats and sneaky politicians. That’s why she is running for a second term in the U.S. House, surprisingly enough.
Like other Republican incumbents, Noem has sought to position herself as an outsider, calling herself a “candidate for Congress.” She is, but she is also a member of it. I wonder if her supporters will hold that against her?
Give her opponent, Matt Varilek, this much: He actually wants to serve if he is elected. I guess that would change if he wins.
Meanwhile, Sen. Johnson will not reveal if he plans to run for a fourth term. He is still hampered by the brain injury he suffered in 2006, with his speech and mobility cleared impaired. But he insists he is still a capable senator and enjoys the work; his selection by his party to serve as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee shows the respect he has in the capitol.
However, rumors popped up last week that his son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, would take his dad’s place in the 2014 campaign. Tim Johnson’s spokesman told me no decision on that race has been made.
Brendan Johnson, talkative and friendly as always, said he cannot consider a political run in his current role. But he laughed and said if he did run in 2014, he might have to face “the old man” in a primary, since no one knows what will happen.
Brendan went back east to visit his family; his mother suffered a serious fall this summer and still has casts on both her arms, he said, but she is hanging tough. I would guess politics wasn’t the sole topic for the clan, but it was certainly discussed.
Of course, all this leaves out Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who quietly moved home to South Dakota this summer and may be eyeing a run for office again. When I asked her recently if she was following politics, she said she was too busy with other concerns to spend much time paying attention to all that.
Not interested in running or serving? It is the in thing to say this fall..