by Debra Heine
A new survey of Republican primary voters in South Dakota suggests that Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) reelection chances were severely damaged by his public spat with former President Trump after the 2020 election.
The poll, conducted by pollster Fabrizio, Lee & Associates for the political action committee American Potential Fund, found that Thune, who just announced his reelection campaign on Saturday, would probably lose a primary challenge by Gov. Kristi Noem, or Dusty Johnson, a popular South Dakota U.S. representative. The survey also found that former president Donald Trump remains very popular with GOP primary voters (RPV).
American Greatness obtained a copy of the PAC’s confidential polling memo.
More than 80 percent of RPV view Kristi Noem favorably, including 65 percent who have a very favorable opinion, the poll found.
Johnson has a 70 percent favorable rating, with 37 percent viewing him very favorably.
John Thune had the lowest net favorability of the three, with only 62 percent of RPV viewing him favorably, and 37 percent very favorably. Moreover, 33 percent of GOP primary voters had an unfavorable opinion of Thune, double the number of RPV who view Noem negatively and eight points higher than Johnson’s unfavorable rating.
Likely GOP voters in S.D. remain very supportive of former President Trump, giving him an 84 percent approval rating, with 62 percent who strongly approve.
Conversely, only 8 percent of RPV approve of the job Joe Biden is doing, while an overwhelming 91 percent disapprove of his job performance. Nearly all of them strongly disapprove.
Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, enraged Trump in December 2020 when he threw cold water on the then-president’s effort to overturn the results of the presidential election in the House, saying the plan “would go down like a shot dog.”
Trump responded angrily on twitter, calling Thune a “RINO” and “Mitch’s boy.”
“RINO John Thune, ‘Mitch’s boy’, should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!” Trump wrote.
In a press release after he voted to acquit Trump on Feb. 13, 2021, Thune took the opportunity to bash the former president: “The impeachment trial is over and former President Trump has been acquitted. My vote to acquit should not be viewed as exoneration for his conduct on January 6, 2021, or in the days and weeks leading up to it. What former President Trump did to undermine faith in our election system and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power is inexcusable.
Later that month, Thune accused fellow Republicans of engaging in “cancel culture” for wanting to censure GOP lawmakers who found former President Donald Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection.
“There was a strong case made,” Thune told the AP. “People could come to different conclusions. If we’re going to criticize the media and the left for cancel culture, we can’t be doing that ourselves.”
Trump has encouraged Noem to challenge Thune, but the governor is running for re-election this year, and has not indicated an interest in running for Senate.
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Debra Heine reports for American Greatness.