Republicans have unsuccessfully tried to knock off South Dakota Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin ever since she was elected six years ago in the rural, conservative state.
But with what could be a big Republican wave and an anti-incumbent narrative building not to mention a strong GOP nominee in state Rep. Kristi Noem party operatives believe they have the right mix of factors to beat the Congresswoman this year.
Democrats, meanwhile, are already trying to paint Noem an anti-abortion, pro-gun, anti-gay-marriage conservative as a right-wing partisan.
They also note that Herseth Sandlin survived a tough environment before, winning her first race in 2004, a very good Republican year.
But that was before she had a Congressional voting record and before she owned the positive and negative aspects that come with incumbency.
South Dakota Republican Party Executive Director Lucas Lentsch compared Noems candidacy to that of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who unseated then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) in 2004.
There are folks that are saying Kristi Noem has the makings of a John Thune campaign, Lentsch said. Shes electrified voters across South Dakota.
Lentschs enthusiasm comes after years of the GOP failing to find a strong challenger to Herseth Sandlin.
Noem was named to the highest level of the NRCCs Young Gun program on Wednesday. The race also signifies the first time in state history that two women will battle for a seat in Congress.
Kristi Noem is everything that Stephanie Herseth claims to be but isnt, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Tom Erickson said. Theres a lot of anger at Washington over the national debt and spending and Stephanie Herseth has been a part of that.
In particular, Noems campaign is pointing to Herseth Sandlins votes in favor of the stimulus package and more recently to raise the countrys debt limit.
South Dakotans are frustrated with politicians in Washington spending like there is no tomorrow, Noem campaign manager Joshua Shields said.
Herseth Sandlins camp defends the stimulus vote as an important step in helping stabilize the economy.
Kristi Noem condemns federal spending, yet every year she has been in the Statehouse she has happily relied on federal assistance to balance the states budget, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Gabby Adler said. Kristi Noems double talk is not the type of leadership voters are looking for this is just outright hypocrisy from a state legislator whose record shows she cares more about politics than South Dakota.
The Congresswoman has hardly been known as a reliable vote for Democrats.
Herseth Sandlin supporters note that she has carefully carved out a niche as a moderate, fiscally conservative Democrat, breaking with her party on important votes such as health care reform, cap-and-trade and the financial and auto industry bailouts.
Stephanie is South Dakotas independent voice in Congress, and she looks forward to talking to voters about her bipartisan work on behalf of our states priorities, campaign spokeswoman Betsy Hart said in an e-mailed statement. She has a strong record of putting our states interests first ... working to promote biofuels and wind energy, or to ensure our veterans have the benefits they deserve Stephanie makes her decisions based on whats best for South Dakota.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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