Johnson launches bid for another U.S. Senate term

Johnson launches bid for another U.S. Senate term U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, flanked by his wife, Barbara and their daughter, Kelsey, greets hundreds of supporters who gathered on the front lawn of his Vermillion home Monday. by David Lias It was no accident that hundreds of people showed up on the front lawn of Tim Johnson's Vermillion home Monday evening.

The senator's campaign staff, and the Democratic Party faithful from the Vermillion community and The University of South Dakota, made sure that Johnson was greeted with a packed crowd in his home town.

In a well-orchestrated event, staged almost to perfection, Johnson gave perhaps one of the best performances in his political career.

His audience may have lacked pure spontaneity � even their reactions to parts of the speech seemed rehearsed at times � but they made up for that with pure enthusiasm.

Ironically, the people who turned out to hear Johnson knew well in advance what his message would be.

His campaign for re-election to the U.S. Senate began months ago.

Monday, however, he made his intentions official while, at the same time, questioning those of his opponent, Rep. John Thune.

"Today, I ask you to re-elect me to the United States Senate," Johnson said. "I am running because I want to work for each of you, not because someone in Washington, DC asked me to."

Johnson was referring to President George W. Bush, who invited Thune and his family to the White House for dinner to convince him to run against Johnson for the Senate.

Thune's decision to challenge Johnson has far reaching ramifications.

Should Thune defeat Johnson, Republicans could gain the majority in the U.S. Senate once more.

South Dakota's Sen. Tom Daschle would be bumped from his role as Senate Majority Leader.

And Johnson's long political career in Washington could, for a time at least, be over.

It's clear that Johnson is pulling out all the stops to prevent that from happening.

He arrived at his home on Plum Street in a large bus, his basic mode of transportation this week as he toured the state announcing his campaign in major South Dakota communities.

Johnson's speech was interwoven with themes that are universally popular in the state.

He talked about his family. He mentioned a law he wrote and passed to save a student loan program.

Johnson said he would not back down to threats from meat packers. He stands behind his bill that makes it illegal for meat packers to own livestock.

He promised to protect Social Security for South Dakota's senior citizens, and continue to seek funding for state projects as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"This is just an example of what we can do together to make South Dakota the state we all know it can be," Johnson said. "You know me, you know what I have done and you know that I will always work hard for you."

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