SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Kristi Noem’s first campaign ad in 2022 is all about “protecting female sports.”
The 30-second advertisement the Republican governor shared last week and aimed to air “during prime-time news programs across the country” says she’s “proposed the strongest law in the nation” banning transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports.
Two days after the ad aired, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted 8-1 along party lines to move the bill to the Senate floor where it could be heard as early as Tuesday.
Tal Axelrod, a campaign reporter for The Hill, said Noem must believe there’s a national benefit to addressing the female sports issue and banning transgender girls from participating.
“This was an issue that really had its moment in the sun among the GOP grassroots,” Axelrod said. “She could view it as an opportunity to try and put any lingering grumbling to bed.”
Axelrod, who helps cover all Governor, Senate and House races throughout the 2022 for The Hill, mentioned the backlash Noem experienced within other GOP circles last year, including a heated exchange with Fox News host Tucker Carlson on the issue.
That backlash hasn’t completely stopped as Rep. Rhonda Milstead (R-Hartford) and Sen. Maggie Sutton (R-Sioux Falls) have a similar bill, House Bill 1006, to the 2021 bill Noem issued a “Style and Form veto” last year. The Rapid City Journal also published an op-ed from Caroline Woods, former Noem policy advisor. Woods called Noem’s ad “incredibly disingenuous at best and gaslighting at worst.”
The extra attention regarding this particular issue could keep Noem’s name involved as future elections approach, Axelrod said.
“Besides just the issue, it’s a way to get her name out there,” Axelrod said. “Anyone in D.C. thinks she has some aspirations, obviously she hasn’t said it publicly.”
The speculation around Noem’s political future was the subject of a POLITICO story published Monday. While Noem did not grant an interview for the story, it did quote numerous South Dakotans throughout.
“She is in a bit of an uphill battle if you believe the polls,” said Axelrod, adding outside of former President Donald Trump, Noem trails names like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and former Vice President Mike Pence
“If she runs for the White House in ‘24 she’s going to be in the middle of a pretty packed field with a bunch of other heavy-hitters,” Axelrod said.
Axelrod said Trump is still the most powerful Republican in the country and wondered how Noem would react if Trump ends up actively campaigning against Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).
“We’re still on a wait and see mode,” Axelrod said.