Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and family. (Melina Mara/Washington Post)

Former South Dakota governor Mike Rounds got a big break Tuesday, with Rep. Kristi Noem opting not to run against him in the Republican Senate primary next year.

"I am excited to announce today my intention to seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2014," Noem said in an e-mail to supporters. "I am grateful to everyone who has encouraged me and pledged support for a potential campaign for the U.S. Senate. However, after spending the weekend discussing our future with Bryon and our children, we decided that right now we are in the best position to serve South Dakota as a member of the U.S. House."

Some conservative groups have balked at Rounds's record and are seeking an alternative. Noem would have been a logical choice to be that alternative.

For now, though, Rounds's path to the Senate remains clear, with the top two potential Democratic candidates — former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and U.S. attorney Brendan Johnson — opting not to run. Former congressional aide Rick Weiland is currently the Democratic frontrunner but is expected to face a steep uphill battle in a red state against a popular former governor.

Johnson's father, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), is retiring.