This morning, I quoted a statement from Rep. Kristi Noem’s spokeswoman Andrea McCarthy calling it “too early” to talk about the congresswoman running for the U.S. Senate:
It’s only been a few weeks since Rep. Noem was re-elected, and it’s too early to be talking about another campaign. Right now she is fully focused on passing a farm bill and finding solutions to fix the country’s fiscal problem.
That’s an interesting statement. But what makes it more interesting is that I didn’t ask Noem whether she was running for the Senate. I asked if Noem had any comment on Rounds’ decision to run. Noem’s office raised the prospect of “another campaign” on their own, not in response to reportorial badgering.
In her conference call this morning with South Dakota reporters, Noem was pressed repeatedly on this subject, and stuck to the script.
“I think it’s too early for that,” Noem said, when asked if she’s thought about running for Senate. “It’s something I’m just not looking at right now.”
She said it was too early to answer a question about when she might make such a decision.
“I can’t speculate on that today,” Noem said.
But Noem also, despite being asked about the issue several times, never denied interest in the Senate, whether tepidly (such as “That’s not something I’m considering right now”) or Shermanesque (“I absolutely will not be a candidate for Senate in 2014”). Every question was the same “too early” answer.
That sure sounds like Noem is seriously thinking about it.
Interestingly, on Noem’s conference call today, the Rapid City Journal’s Kevin Woster asked Noem (roughly) if she was concerned Sen. Tim Johnson was too liberal for South Dakota, teeing it up if she wanted to criticize him.
But Noem demurred.
“There have been many issues that have been specific to South Dakota that I’ve been able to work with Sen. Johnson on,” Noem said. “We obviously have different policy positions on many issues… but we have also had a good working relationship on things that are good to South Dakota.”
Pressed, Noem said being out-of-step with South Dakota’s views could hurt a candidate in the next election, but never said Johnson was out-of-step with South Dakotans.
Realistically Noem can’t declare she’s running for Senate until Congress resolves the farm bill and fiscal cliff. But she’s also not under the same fundraising pressure, because she can continue her usual prodigious fundraising for her House.
The Federal Election Commission rules allow her to transfer money from her House account into a Senate campaign account once she’s no longer seeking both offices. (In other words, she has to become a full-time Senate candidate and publicly announce she’s not running for House.) The rules also state the individual donor caps apply to both committees — if an individual gives $2,500 to Noem’s House campaign, and $2,500 to Noem’s hypothetical Senate campaign, both for the primary (aka, the legal maximum), that $2,500 can’t be transferred to the Senate campaign because it would put that person’s contributions to Noem over the legal maximum.