SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The Democratic Senate nominee in South Dakota on Monday accused his national party of running ads that are too negative and actually designed to boost an independent running the race. Rick Weiland's criticism came as two fresh polls showed the GOP nominee, former Gov. Mike Rounds, maintaining a comfortable lead in a state that will help determine control of the Senate.
Weiland said ads run by Senate Democrats' campaign arm, which began airing earlier this month, have hurt him by making him seem like a negative candidate. At the same time, he said, the ads are actually an effort to boost former Republican Sen. Larry Pressler, who is running as an independent in a four-way race that includes Weiland, the GOP nominee, former Gov. Mike Rounds and another independent, Gordon Howie.
"All they did was put negative on me, on Gov. Rounds in the attempt to drive up Larry Pressler's numbers," Weiland said of ads paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
He added, "I believe their calculation was Larry Pressler had a better chance of winning than I did."
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee did not immediately respond to Weiland's comments. But the committee's executive director, Guy Cecil, told Bloomberg TV last week that spending in the state was designed to boost Weiland. "We want Weiland to win," he said.
In Kansas, another key Senate battleground, the DSCC has not spent money to boost an independent, Greg Orman, who is running in a tight, two-way race against Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
Pressler said in a brief interview that he thought Weiland's theory was "preposterous."
Weiland's criticism of national Democrats came as two recent polls showed Rounds ahead.
A Sioux Falls Argus Leader/KELO-TV poll released on Monday found Rounds at 42 percent in a four-way race, with Weiland at 33 percent; Pressler at 13 percent and Howie at 2 percent. Another poll, conducted by NBC News and Marist University, and released on Sunday, had Rounds ahead by slightly more, with 43 percent of the vote, compared to 29 percent for Weiland, 16 percent for Pressler and 3 percent for Howie.
The DSCC said in early October it would put around $1 million into the race. Senate Republicans quickly responding with a roughly equivalent investment.
South Dakota is one of roughly 11 competitive races that will determine which party controls the Senate. Republicans need to net six seats to wrest control from Democrats; South Dakota, where Democrat Tim Johnson is retiring, factors into nearly all of their paths to victory.