- Associated Press - Friday, July 29, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Hillary Clinton has a stronger chance than recent Democratic presidential candidates of carrying South Dakota in the fall - especially cast against her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, top state Democrats said Friday.

Delegates were heading home from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where Clinton became the first woman to claim a major party’s presidential nomination. She would also be the first Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 to win deep red South Dakota if she’s successful in November.

“I know it’s an uphill battle,” said state Democratic Party Chairwoman Ann Tornberg, a superdelegate who supported Clinton. “But I really feel this is the best chance in decades.”

The race will be competitive because Clinton knows the Midwest and has put in time and effort visiting South Dakota over the years, said former U.S. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, a Clinton superdelegate. She has an understanding of the state that other presidential candidates haven’t possessed, Daschle said.

Tornberg said residents aren’t lining up behind Trump, who doesn’t have a background in agriculture and likely won’t attract much support from tribal members. South Dakota U.S. Sen. John Thune didn’t attend the Republican National Convention last week, which “speaks volumes” about Trump’s lack of support, she said.

“Trump is the gift that just keeps on giving,” said delegate Rick Weiland, a former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate.

Clinton will also help South Dakota’s down ballot Democrats, including challengers to Thune and GOP Rep. Kristi Noem, Tornberg said.

Democratic U.S. House candidate Paula Hawks said she expects Democrats will come out in greater numbers this year.

Hawks, who is at a significant fundraising disadvantage in her race against Noem, said she’s also looking to pick up independents and moderate Republican voters who come to view Trump as an unacceptable candidate.

Meanwhile, Republicans are confident Trump will carry the state that gave Mitt Romney a double-digit victory over President Barack Obama in 2012.

“I think that there’s controversy with Hillary Clinton at every turn,” state Republican Party executive director Ryan Budmayr said. “I think it’s difficult to trust her, and ultimately I don’t think her policies and her ideals resonate with South Dakotans.”

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