It is difficult to overestimate the importance of marketing to South Dakota.
Bifurcated at the confluence of the Midwest and West and the Missouri River, the state has relied on tourism since the early 20th century when another ambitious governor, Peter Norbeck, tirelessly promoted a country’s development Granite monument in the Black Hills, which could attract visitors to the region.
Ms. Noem has shown a similar passion for making the state a tourist destination by blending tourism with politics in a memorable way by making sure it does Fireworks could be displayed at Mount Rushmore to lure Mr. Trump there last year. South Dakota similarly trumpets its pheasant hunting, pikeperch fishing, and even more blatant tourist pit stops like Wall Drug and the Mitchell Corn Palace.
“We don’t have a lot of industry in South Dakota, and we don’t have a lot of natural resources that are pumped up or extracted from the ground. So if you have a state that is basically acting and ranching, this is what you need. State dollars, ”said Ted Hustead, whose family owns Wall Drug, whose western collection of shops and restaurants is a major tourist attraction.
That need has put Ms. Noem in a vise over transgender legislation.
She initially said she would support the bill. However, she reversed course after facing backlash from the influential South Dakota business community who feared the National Collegiate Athletic Association would pull money-making basketball tournaments out of the state.
Ms. Noem was pressured by Tucker Carlson to change her mind in a rare, controversial interview with Fox News, and the trap raised suspicion among social conservatives.
“She says whatever she thinks she says,” said Taffy Howard, a state lawmaker who has urged Ms. Noem to reveal the details of the state money she used on safety on her frequent trips. “This was about keeping their donors happy.”
The House overturned Ms. Noem’s partial veto of the trans law, but the Senate declined to take action, doomed the legislation to failure.