Watch this, and pay attention to how careful her phrasing is. This is about as good as one can do answering a question without quiiiiiite answering it.

“We have a president that was elected. He is in office. I am willing to work with him. I believe he is our president of the United States.” That’s great — but the question she was asked, bluntly and more than once, was whether Biden gained his office fairly. If she means to imply that he was fairly elected because she recognizes him as president, why can’t she just say that explicitly?

It’s like being asked whether O.J. committed murder and answering, “Well, O.J.’s a free man.” Uh, right. But should he be? Was his acquittal a just result?

The fact that she starts and finishes by talking about voter ID and election security is obviously a wink-wink way of casting doubt on Biden’s legitimacy. What this amounts to, really, is her saying, “Biden going to occupy this office for four years whether we like it or not so we’d better make the best of it — even if he cheated.” That’s her way of walking the line between hardcore “stop the steal” MAGA fans who’ll never accept Biden and the rest of the population that does.

And instead of owning that, she’s trying to turn it into a media-bias episode. That’s another thing about this: Although the reporter is clearly trying to put her on the spot, even warning her of what he’s going to write if she doesn’t clarify her answer, the question he asks her is *not* a gotcha. A “gotcha” is when a reporter tries to make a politician squirm just for the sake of doing it. The question being asked here is actually highly pertinent to the 2024 Republican presidential race, which Noem will certainly join assuming Trump doesn’t run. I wrote about that a few days ago. “Do you believe Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States?” will be the most interesting question at the first primary debate in 2024 because it’s the ultimate MAGA loyalty test. If you want to win over Trump’s voters, you signal your loyalty by agreeing that the last election was stolen; if you want to win over swing voters, you don’t.

Noem sees it coming from a thousand miles away and is already perfecting a non-answer. Biden is technically president but we need electoral reforms so that we don’t have another election like that again.

This is a little awkward, though:

https://twitter.com/govkristinoem/status/1351957361624289288

Nonzero chance that some GOP rival ends up using the fact that she attended the inauguration against her in 2024. How could she betray the real president by attending a ceremony honoring the fake one?

In the end, though, Noem nimbly dodging a question about whether Biden was fairly elected is small potatoes. The real action in delegitimizing an opponent’s election victory is in state legislatures. If you liked the original “Stop the Steal,” wait until you see how it’s being beefed up for the next cycle:

The Republican chair of Arizona’s state House Ways and Means Committee introduced a bill Wednesday that would give the Legislature authority to override the secretary of state’s certification of its electoral votes.

GOP Rep. Shawnna Bolick introduced the bill, which rewrites parts of the state’s election law, such as sections on election observers and securing and auditing ballots, among other measures.

One section grants the Legislature, which is currently under GOP control, the ability to revoke the secretary of state’s certification “by majority vote at any time before the presidential inauguration.”

Another provision of the same bill would bar courts from granting motions to dismiss frivolous election suits, requiring jury trials in all cases instead. If Trump had had that advantage, cases would probably still be going on, conveniently delaying Biden’s inauguration. The next coup attempt is going to work.

While she was in D.C. for the inauguration, Noem visited the South Dakota National Guard, which was deployed to the capital at the time. Two months of Trump questioning the legitimacy of Biden’s win gave us the Capitol attack, which in turn gave us a military presence on the streets of Washington that persists even now. Jonathan Last wrote about that today, specifically the news that Capitol Police want permanent security fences installed going forward to mar the landscape. There are two ways to make Washington more secure, Last argues: One is for Republicans to drop the “stop the steal” stuff and admit to their voters that Biden was fairly elected and thus there’s no need to try to disrupt official government business, and the second is permanent fencing. Given a choice between the two, they prefer fencing.