Steven Haugaard is extremely unlikely to beat Kristi Noem in South Dakota’s Republican gubernatorial primary for many reasons—Sioux Falls lawyer versus comely faux cowgirl, lack of money, inability to generate regular media buzz, and empirical evidence from multiple primaries that South Dakota’s radical theocrats cannot mount effective statewide campaigns against mainstream Republican opponents.
If Haugaard could match Noem in looks (and hey, I’m just pointing out what the Republican electorate wants), money, media, and campaign acumen, he might have a chance of stirring the Trump-zombies his party has become by somehow proving he is the candidate of greater Trumpist purity. But Noem drinks Haugaard’s milkshake here, too, by joining the Republican lynch mob out to hang Republicaner-than-Republican Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (and anyone else who doesn’t heil the Führer) and replace her with flip-flopping Trumpportunist Harriet Hageman. Governor Noem has signed on with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and over a hundred members of Congress, including radical bombthrowers Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, and Citizens United to co-host a fundraiser for Hageman in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, March 30:
The Wyoming congresswoman has drawn the ire of Republicans for her vote to impeach former President Donald Trump and her continued outspoken criticism of him, as well as her decision to sit on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Trump endorsed Hageman last year.
Hageman’s support within the GOP conference crosses the ideological spectrum. The fundraiser has drawn the support of members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which is closely aligned with Trump, but it is also being hosted by members of the moderate Governance Group and Main Street Partnership.
…In a statement, a Cheney spokesperson fired back at her colleagues supporting Hageman.
“Liz would like to thank Kevin McCarthy for anointing one of her opponents as the D.C. insider/establishment candidate in the race,” the spokesperson said [Alex Isenstadt, “More Than 100 House Republicans to Cohost Fundraiser for Cheney Challenger,” Politico, 2022.03.23].
Of course the Hageman supporters “crosses the ideological spectrum”: the party of Trump and Noem has no ideology left, just the cult of personality.
Haugaard has shown he’s willing to lie for Trump, too. But Noem’s betrayal of Cheney and toeing the Trump line makes it harder for Haugaard to add any votes to his column. Casual GOP primary participants (if such creatures exist) will look for the Trump label, see Kristi wearing it much more brightly on her shiny rodeo gear, and say, that’s our gal! Mainstream Republicans quietly appalled at the cult of personality won’t flip from Noem to Haugaard, because Haugaard represents a cult of his own, and mainstream Republicans just want to do business and exploit the Earth and the working class. The best Haugaard can hope for is that mainstream Republicans would sit out the primary, leaving his diehards a chance to constitute 30% of the turnout instead of 20%.
A nimble candidate ought to be able to translate Noem’s constant attention on out-of-state politics into a crushing campaign promise to pay attention to South Dakota. But with Trumpist vengeance and image-obsession crowding out all ideological and practical considerations, Noem’s backing of the Trump label in the Wyoming GOP House primary is unlikely to hamper her own frontrunning in the South Dakota GOP gubernatorial primary.