Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) has suffered what at first appearance seems to have been a stroke. His prognosis could determine control of the Senate for the next two years, and possibly more. Should he die or be unable to continue his service, Gov. Mike Rounds would appoint his replacement. Hopefully he would not follow Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski and appoint a family member.
Gov. Rounds could choose any number of Republican officeholders, including State Secretary of State Chris Nelson and Attorney General Larry Long, or 2004 special election nominee Larry Diedrich. Hopefully he would choose a prolific fundraiser, as the seat is up for reelection in two years. Should Johnson be unable to run for reelection, Democrats would likely recruit Rep. Stephanie Herseth, the most noticable Democrat in the state and a proven campaigner.
His departure would immediately make South Dakota a top-tier race in an otherwise rather boring cycle. Currently, Republicans have a very strong chance of taking out only a single Democrat incumbent, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. That would mean that Republicans would have to hold everything and defeat Landrieu to recapture the Senate as things stand. Having the chance to hold or take over South Dakota would give the GOP a little more wiggle room.
Stay tooned as the story develops.
Update: Sen. Johnson did not suffer a stroke. While some have said that this is “good news”, no new diagnosis has been given.