When the story broke and confronted by KELO, Kristi Noem did the right thing. She said she was not proud of her record, was working to improve, and wanted to talk about important issues other than her driving record.
The Noem campaign and Republicans now need to move on. Quit talking about driving records, theirs and others. Don’t make this a two day or two week story. Democrats will try to keep ginning this story but the candidate has answered and must resist all impulses to keep talking about it [Joel Rosenthal, "Kristi—Get on Message," South Dakota Straight Talk, 2010.08.30].
And what do we get from the Noem campaign? More driving records. They go after Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's dad for speeding tickets. They go after SHS's chief of staff for a Brookings DUI.
Now as Rosenthal calmly notes, opposition research is par for the course in serious campaigns. But let's make clear three points about the driving-record narrative and why it still tilts in Herseth Sandlin's favor:
- The "family values" Republicans appear to value their opponents' families as negative campaign targets. Noem attacks Herseth Sandlin's husband and now her dad, just as Thune's people gleefully attacked Daschle's wife in 2004.
- Noem's crimes aren't just the traffic violations themselves; they are six failures ot appear in court and two arrest warrants. Everybody cited in these burgeoning attacks has broken the law; Noem demonstrated even greater arrogance by skipping court, as if she was just too good to show up before the judge and take responsibility for her crime.
- KELO launched the driving record story... and they even opened with the gubernatorial candidates' tickets, which dings Dem Scott Heidepriem slightly worse than GOP Dennis Daugaard. The stories about Lars and chief of staff Gould are coming straight from the Noem machine. This part doesn't matter quite as much to me, since facts are facts regardless of the source. But I hear enough Noem apologists making the baseless claim that the Noem-warrants story came straight from the SHS camp that it's worth pointing out the lack of equivalence.
And now Josh says "she was trying to make up time over flat country" Shields is doing everything he can to turn another rising star into a lump of coal. If she wants to regain her momentum, Noem had better send young Shields over to Rosenthal's house for some schooling, fast.
But in the end, why yes, we are left with a long list of lawbreakers. We're all in glass houses, and we're all throwing stones. If you've sent either Kristi or Stephanie money, or if you've so much as shaken their hands, you'll probably see your criminal record published in the newspaper by November 2, too.
So let's be consistent. Require Herseth Sandlin's chief of staff Tessa Gould to resign from the campaign over her infraction. Require Lars Herseth to resign from being Stephanie's dad. Require Kristi Noem to resign from her position as state legislator and from her campaign for the U.S. House.
And while we're at it, require Josh Shields to resign for driving Noem's campaign into the ditch.
Update 10:25 CDT: I never had Dr. Robert Burns for a prof at SDSU. I am nonetheless heartened to read in the Mitchell Daily Republic that my analysis of the Noem warrants debacle is closer to Dr. Burns's thinking than is Pat Powers's:
I think it’s very difficult to tell what the South Dakota voter makes out of it.... The troubling thing about it was there were warrants and nonappearance coupled with multiple offenses [Dr. Robert Burns, quoted by Tom Lawrence, "Noem's Driving Record Takes Wheel of Campaign," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2010.08.31].