In SD House Race, Both Candidates Try To Keep Party Leaders At Arm's Length

ABC News' Amy Walter Reports:

Although national issues like health care reform, the economy, and the role of government will be playing an outsized role in the race for South Dakota’s lone House seat, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin and Republican Kristi Noem are also working hard to emphasize their independence from their party’s leaders.

In an interview airing today on ABC/Washington Post’s “Top Line” Herseth-Sandlin, a leader of the conservative Blue Dog faction in the House, told ABC’s Jonathan Karl that she’d give President Obama a “C” grade. “I think that I would give him you know in the C range overall because I think on some issues, especially navigating some tough economic waters he inherited, he’s doing better than people are giving him credit for. But on some of the other issues and some of the agency action I haven’t been pleased with as it relates to some of the commitment I thought we would be having to ethanol and biodiesel and understanding and dealing with our forestry issues, I don’t think he did a good job.”

Meanwhile, Kristi Noem, who’s been called South Dakota’s Sarah Palin, wasn’t anxious to have the former Alaska Gov. stump for her this fall. “Campaigning for me?” said Noem, “Probably not. You know we’ve gone forward making sure we’re focused on the people here at home. So we’ve had opportunities at various times to bring in other people but we’re going to make sure people know who I am. I’m fairly new to the statewide race. I want them to know who I am and what I believe we should be doing rather than focusing on somebody else from out of state.“

However, Noem’s happy to link Herseth-Sandlin to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. When asked if she saw any “similarities” between Herseth-Sandlin and Pelosi, Noem said “they’ve certainly voted a lot alike. They’ve supported some of the same policies coming out, you know, the stimulus package. Our Congresswoman came back to South Dakota and said it would bring 10,000 new jobs. Instead we lost almost 10,000 jobs.”

In response to attempts to attach her to the polarizing Speaker, Herseth-Sandlin said “John Boehner is no picnic for South Dakota either. John Boehner voted against the Farm Bill. John Boehner sided with George Bush in vetoing a Farm Bill that was really good for South Dakota. So this isn’t about John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi. This is about Kristi Noem and Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin and whose record inspires the confidence of South Dakota of who’s going to do what’s right for the state and not be a rubber stamp for a political party.”

Watch more on Jonathan Karl’s reporting from South Dakota (and riding a horse!) tomorrow morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

-Amy Walter

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