Noem’s not out of this yet

Rep. Kristi Noem has stayed quiet lately about the U.S. Senate race, with intrigue focusing on the Democratic side of things. But in the past week we’ve gotten two indications that the GOP congresswoman still could very well challenge Mike Rounds in a primary.

First came some anonymous quotes from The Hill last week, after Rick Weiland declared his candidacy but before Stephanie Herseth Sandlin opted out.

And Weiland’s entrance into the South Dakota race makes it more likely that Republicans will face a potentially bruising primary as well. Conservative Republicans are frustrated with Rounds’s record and have been looking for a challenger, though none has yet emerged.

But a source familiar with Rep. Kristi Noem’s (R) thinking said the news that Democrats may face a contested primary “will certainly pique” the Tea Party favorite’s interest in the race.

“This could potentially make our path to a run for Senate easier,” the source said.

The source added that Rounds’s paltry first-quarter fundraising haul — she raised about $184,000 — had also increased Noem’s interest in the race, and she’s expected to have a decision made on her potential run soon after Labor Day.

Just a few minutes ago, Roll Call published an on-the-record quote from Justin Brasell, a respected GOP consultant who worked for Sen. John Thune for many years and is now working with Noem:

Rep. Kristi Noem, who defeated Herseth Sandlin in 2010, is still “taking a serious look” at the race, her consultant Justin Brasell said.

"Taking a serious look" is a lot further than Noem has gone, with her carefully phrased refusal to rule out a candidacy and indication that she would revisit the issue this summer.

South Dakota may not see a heavyweight Democratic primary this cycle, but a clash of Republican titans could still materialize.

Tags: Kristi Noem