Rhoden blasts Rounds at conservative conference (updated)

When Larry Rhoden first entered the race, he declined to criticize Mike Rounds directly.

"I resisted the temptation to talk about my opponent," Rhoden said this morning. "What I said is, he can define himself. I will define what I will do, my strengths."

On Friday morning, speaking to a group of conservative activists at the RedState conference, Rhoden said he was done with that, and blamed Rounds for starting it.

"But in the last three or four days, some things have come to light in the press that I have found extremely interesting," Rhoden said. "He has chosen to come after me."

And in his Friday speech, Rhoden came after Rounds.

First, he made explicit some of his oblique swipes at Rounds earlier in the campaign.

Rhoden initially talked about “the fact that I will have the strength of character to stand by my convictions — the difference inference being that (Rounds) didn’t,” Rhoden said. “That was pretty obvious.”

But he also tore into many of Rounds’ comments to the Argus Leader this week, in my story about the GOP primary.

Rounds told the Argus Leader Rhoden’s refusal to make pledges means he will “never be a player at the table.”

"I’ve got news for him," Rhoden said. "It was never my intention to be a player at the table. I’m running to turn those tables over."

Proclaiming “stiff-necked and hard-headed” to be “a badge of honor,” Rhoden also doubled down on the pledges he has taken to never raise taxes and to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — pledges Rounds has refused to sign.

"My opponent says he refuses to take pledges because that ties his hands and keeps him from negotiating," Rhoden said. "Isn’t that exactly the point? It’s time that our politicians be held accountable."

Rhoden’s remarks drew applause from the audience of conservative activists at the conference, with perhaps his biggest cheer coming when he said he’d try to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.

Erick Erickson, the prominent conservative blogger and pundit who runs RedState, also endorsed Rhoden in his remarks before and after the South Dakotan’s speech.

"We shouldn’t even try to send Mike Rounds to the Senate," Erickson said. "We should send Larry instead."

Stay with Argus Leader Media for more on this story.

UPDATE: This post has been updated to correct a quote from Rhoden talking about character. He was originally quoted as talking about the “difference” between his character and Rounds’, when on closer review of a recording actually said “inference.”