One man is in control of this.
Tim Johnson holds the key. Tim Johnson can end the speculation. Tim Johnson has the ability to shape the South Dakota political scene for the next two years.
When will he do so? Soon, it seems.
South Dakota’s senior senator, the most successful politician in state history, a man with 34 uninterrupted and undefeated years in politics, has promised to speak soon and reveal his plans for 2014.
On Wednesday, Politico and the National Journal published the most recent articles on TJ, saying he was either expected to retire, or strongly considering it. Johnson canceled a teleconference shortly after the stories hit the Internet, citing the winter storm that was bearing down on the nation’s capital.
It’s in keeping with Johnson’s reluctance to hold press events, or meet with the public. He has grown increasingly private in the wake of the brain hemorrhage he suffered in 2006. Johnson defeated the little-known and underfunded Joel Dykstra in 2008 in a race where Dykstra was unsure how to address Johnson’s physical limitations.
Five years later, Johnson’s speech and mobility remain impaired. He relies heavily on his staff. At 66, a lot of people, including reporters and editors in South Dakota and Washington, think he is ready to call it a long, successful career.
At the very least, he is certainly unwilling to end the reports. The fact that some of his staff has departed in the last year or so, and he is not actively raising money or touring South Dakota only adds to the theory that he is ready to head to the sidelines.
Daily Republic Editor Seth Tupper took a look at Johnson’s recent actions and statements in a column in today’s paper. Seth timed his column well.
So the talk continues to rumble. Will his son, U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, run in his place? Will former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin try to resume her stalled political career? Is there room for both on the 2014 ballot, one for the Senate, and one for the House?
Meanwhile, Mike Rounds sits back and watches. The former two-term GOP governor says he is running for the Senate. He has been preparing for this race for more than a year, has been strengthening ties with Republicans across the state, and, most importantly, raising money.
Rep. Kristi Noem is also pondering a run, and may take on Rounds in the Republican primary. That would make it an amazing year for observers and voters.
But this is all speculation, mere rumor and icy mist on a cold winter night. Only one person can clear the air, and answer most of these questions.
When will you do that, Tim Johnson?