Somebody ring the bell. The battle is about to get intense.
Rep. Kristi Noem and her challenger, Matt Varilek, will hold their first debate at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Dakotafest in Mitchell. They have three more scheduled, and perhaps others may occur as well, but this is the opening salvo for the two sides.
We will be there to see who lands the first punch and who wilts in the heat. Both camps are sure to be amped up.
It’s an agriculture event in a rural setting on the southeast edge of the Corn Palace City, so expect the stalled farm bill to be one of the main issues. We expect a large, loud crowd.
Noem is bringing in supporters via bus, and Varilek will have his backers there as well. The South Dakota Farmers Union, which scheduled a State Fair debate that Noem bowed out of last week, is also promising to bring people.
In 2004, Tom Daschle and John Thune drew a large crowd for their Dakotafest debate. Thune won the election, and many people who were there felt he won the DF debate.
He was at Dakotafest again on Tuesday and stopped by our office afterward, looking lean and tanned in jeans and an open-necked shirt..
His advice to the two candidates: attack. “If you’re explaining, you’re losing,” Thune said.
Interestingly, Noem, who served two terms in the Legislature and is in her second year in Congress, is running as an outsider. She told me she would during an appearance in Mitchell two weeks ago, explaining that a lot of the freshmen Republicans planned to do so. They were from outside Washington, and were not of it, she said.
Listen to her new radio ad. In it, she refers to herself as “Kristi Noem, candidate for Congress.” That’s technically correct, but she is already there. Is she hoping some voters have not noticed?
Meanwhile, the Democrats are playing games as well. They plan to continue to hammer away at Noem’s record of having skipped committee meetings and her failure to hold many public meetings and town halls.
Those are things we expect for the silly season, but it’s almost Labor Day. The real campaign is ready to begin, and Round One will be held in Mitchell.