The incoming Republican House majority has announced it will create a new leadership position for Representative Kristi Noem from South Dakota, a remarkable honor for a freshman Congresswoman. Noem is young, charismatic, and brimming with Tea Party credibility. She has a history of private-sector success and personal triumph that voters will respond to, after years of community-organizer failure. Her nomination came after a three-way primary against top-shelf opponents, who promptly endorsed her, rather than pursuing the fashionable course of declaring her a monster and becoming write-in candidates. She went on to achieve a solid victory in a tough race against Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, who was seen as a rising star in the Democrat Party. It’s wise for the Republicans to invite one of the new Tea Party winners into the leadership, and Kristi Noem is an excellent choice.
Noem has only just arrived at Capitol Hill High School, but she’s already one of the most popular girls in class, and every sorority wants her. The GOP establishment would like to keep her from the clutches of Michele Bachmann (R-Minn), who is challenging Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) for Republican conference chair. The Party establishment prefers the lower-key, but equally conservative, Hensarling, but Bachmann has strong connections with the Tea Party movement. Keeping Kristi Noem out of her orbit is an important move in the contest for conference chair.
Embracing Noem may also prove to be a strategic move in the even longer game for the 2012 presidential nomination. Although she is often compared to Sarah Palin, Noem was endorsed by Mitt Romney, but not Palin. She could be Romney’s strongest link to a Tea Party that hasn’t demonstrated much enthusiasm for him.
Her fresh face will be a welcome sight for voters who find the rest of the House leadership vaguely, uncomfortably familiar. She has a serious grasp of the issues, and performs well in both print and televised interviews. Tapping her for a high-profile position is an understated, Republican way of reminding voters this was a spectacular year for conservative women… as opposed to the traditional Democrat approach of running around Capitol Hill with a pack of giddy reporters and screaming “This is the YEAR OF THE WOMAN!”
For all of these reasons, voters are likely to see a lot of Kristi Noem as the 112th Congress convenes. Her story is one of many that make the Republican leadership contest more fun than watching Democrat vampires once again kneel before Nancy Pelosi, the Queen of the Damned.