It is difficult to overestimate the importance of marketing to South Dakota.
At the confluence of the Midwest and West and bifurcated by the Missouri River, the state has relied on tourism since the beginning of the 20th century when another ambitious governor, Peter Norbeck, tirelessly promoted the development of a granite monument in the Black Hills that could accommodate visitors lure to the region.
Ms. Noem has shown a similar passion for making the state a travel destination, mostly mixing tourism with politics, arranging for fireworks to be displayed at Mount Rushmore to lure Mr. Trump there last year. South Dakota similarly trumpets pheasant hunting, zander 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, you need this. 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. But 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 flap raised suspicion among social conservatives.
“She says whatever she thinks she says,” said Taffy Howard, a state lawmaker who has asked Ms. Noem to disclose 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.