South Dakota’s glamorous GOP Governor Kristi Noem begins her campaign to become Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick for 2024 race

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South Dakota’s glamorous GOP Governor Kristi Noem begins her campaign to become Donald Trump’s vice presidential pick for 2024 race

  • South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem endorsed former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally on Friday potentially boosting Trump’s lead
  •  A rising star in the party, Noem has long been mentioned as a possible running mate for Trump should he win the nomination
  • Noem announced her endorsement at an evening rally in Rapid City, South Dakota despite the first nominating contest in Iowa still months away

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Donald Trump was in South Dakota on Friday night for a party fundraiser that doubled as an opportunity for the state’s governor, Kristi Noem, to showcase herself as a potential vice presidential pick.

Trump joined the South Dakota Republican Party for a ‘Monumental Leaders Rally’ in Rapid City. 

Noem appeared alongside the former president and endorsed him, creating an image of the pair that Noem’s allies hope make her look like vice presidential material. 

Sources have told the New York Times that she has her eye on a vice presidential spot. 

Noem, 51, has been touted as a future presidential candidate – with a spell in the White House certain to bring her to national prominence and help turbocharge any future presidential ambitions. 

Trump’s decision to headline the event underscores his dominance in the Republican race even as he faces four separate indictments and 91 felony counts.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem welcomes former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before he speaks at a South Dakota Republican party rally in Rapid City, South Dakota on Friday evening

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem welcomes former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before he speaks at a South Dakota Republican party rally in Rapid City, South Dakota on Friday evening

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem endorsed former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally on Friday potentially boosting Trump's lead

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem endorsed former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally on Friday potentially boosting Trump’s lead

Former US president and 2024 Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the South Dakota Republican Party's Monumental Leaders rally at the Ice Arena at the Monument in Rapid City, South Dakota on Friday evening

Former US president and 2024 Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the South Dakota Republican Party’s Monumental Leaders rally at the Ice Arena at the Monument in Rapid City, South Dakota on Friday evening

South Dakota holds a late primary and isn’t competitive in a general election. 

With a huge lead in the polls, Trump is skipping much of the traditional primary campaign.

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Instead of large-scale rallies, he is relying on state party events that offer large, friendly audiences at no cost to his campaign, while his political organization pays millions of dollars in legal expenses.

Friday’s visit by Trump was something of an audition for Noem. 

She planned the event as a way to both offer her endorsement and maximize face time with Trump as he considers potential 2024 running mates and cabinet members, according to one of the Republicans who spoke anonymously. A spokesman for the governor has declined to comment.

Noem will be term-limited in 2026 and, after declining to run for president this year, is eyeing her next move to maintain prominence in the GOP.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem greets former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before he speaks at a South Dakota Republican party rally

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem greets former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump before he speaks at a South Dakota Republican party rally 

A rising star in the party, Noem has long been mentioned as a possible running mate for Trump should he win the nomination

A rising star in the party, Noem has long been mentioned as a possible running mate for Trump should he win the nomination

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem arrives on the stage ahead of the event on Friday

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem arrives on the stage ahead of the event on Friday

Supporters of President Trump are seen in the crowd at the South Dakota Republican party rally

Supporters of President Trump are seen in the crowd at the South Dakota Republican party rally

‘I think Donald Trump has a 50-50 shot of getting elected at this point, so why not hitch your wagon to him if you can?’ said Michael Card, a longtime observer of South Dakota politics who suggested Noem might also make a future National Rifle Association president or conservative commentator.

Voting won’t begin for several months and Trump’s indictments and upcoming criminal trials create an unprecedented situation that many strategists argue could influence the race in unexpected ways. 

That hasn’t stopped those who are keen to be considered as Trump’s running mate from openly jockeying for the position and trying to curry favor with him and his aides.

Aides caution it is far too early for serious discussions, but Trump has indicated in conversations that he is interested in selecting a woman this time around, having fallen out with his former Vice President Mike Pence.

Aides say Trump has little interest in choosing a VP and views the role as a largely ceremonial one that’s vastly inferior to that of the president, according to the outlet.

But prospective candidates like Noem realize that it could still be used as a stepping stone to the top job. 

Joe Biden and George HW Bush are among nine former vice presidents who later became presidents.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem welcomes Donald Trump as she publicly endorsed him

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem welcomes Donald Trump as she publicly endorsed him

President Trump tried to pump up the crowd as he took to the stage at the Republican rally

President Trump tried to pump up the crowd as he took to the stage at the Republican rally

Trump clapped along with his supporters as he played theme music to generate excitement

Trump clapped along with his supporters as he played theme music to generate excitement

Supporters of former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gather ahead of a South Dakota Republican party rally in Rapid City, South Dakota

Supporters of former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gather ahead of a South Dakota Republican party rally in Rapid City, South Dakota

Trump's popularity does not appear to have waned in the heartland

Trump’s popularity does not appear to have waned in the heartland 

A vendor sells merchandise supporting Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump outside of the Monument Arena

A vendor sells merchandise supporting Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump outside of the Monument Arena 

Many of Trump's supporters echo claims he has made in the past

Many of Trump’s supporters echo claims he has made in the past

At least one supporter wore a t-shirt supporting a Trump-Noem ticket for 2024

At least one supporter wore a t-shirt supporting a Trump-Noem ticket for 2024

Supporters of former President Donald Trump recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the South Dakota Republican Party Monumental Leaders rally

Supporters of former President Donald Trump recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the South Dakota Republican Party Monumental Leaders rally

Supporters place their hands over their hearts as they sing patriotic songs

Supporters place their hands over their hearts as they sing patriotic songs

Supporters gesture for former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the rally

Supporters gesture for former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the rally

Among the other names that have been floated: New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn. Florida Rep. Byron Donalds and Sen. Tim Scott have also been mentioned.

Trump will be in Iowa, the first state on the GOP nomination calendar, on Saturday to attend the college football game between Iowa and Iowa State.

‘What we’re focused on is just locking up this primary and pivoting towards the general election,’ said campaign spokesman Steven Cheung.

Noem was long considered a potential White House contender in her own right and had told The New York Times in November that she didn’t believe Trump offered ‘the best chance’ for the party in 2024. 

She has since said she saw no point in joining the crowded field running for the nomination given Trump’s dominant position.

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene

Failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake

Among the other names that have been floated: New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, left, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, center and  failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake 

Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn

Florida Rep. Byron Donalds

Senator Tim Scott

Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, left, Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, center, and Senator Tim Scott, right have also been mentioned

‘I would in a heartbeat,’ she told Newsmax when asked this week about whether she would consider joining a potential Trump ticket if asked. 

‘President Trump needs a strong partner if he’s going to take back the White House, and he’s going to need somebody who knows what it’s like to run a business, to be an employee, earn a paycheck, but also having a wife, mom and a grandma isn’t bad either.’

It will be Trump’s first visit to South Dakota since the summer of 2020, when he headlined a Fourth of July fireworks celebration at Mount Rushmore on the eve of Independence Day. 

The then-president had been looking for a venue to turn the page after a summer of pandemic lockdowns and racial justice protests. 

Noem’s event at Mount Rushmore was notably devoid of pandemic restrictions.

Trump's decision to headline the event in South Dakota underscores his dominance of the Republican race even as he faces four separate indictments and 91 felony counts

Trump’s decision to headline the event in South Dakota underscores his dominance of the Republican race even as he faces four separate indictments and 91 felony counts

She also gifted him a miniature replica of Mount Rushmore with his likeness carved alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.

‘I don’t know exactly,’ Trump said Thursday when asked if Noem will endorse him. ‘But I am going. I like her a lot. I think she’s great. Kristi’s done a great job.’ 

He has often praised her handling of the pandemic, saying again on Thursday she had done ‘a fantastic job.’

A former member of Congress, Noem in 2018 squeezed out a surprisingly close win over a Democratic challenger to become South Dakota’s first female governor. 

She rose to national prominence with a mostly hands-off approach to the pandemic and tacked closely to the urgings of Trump to return to life as normal.

She handily won reelection last year, even as she performed worse than other Republicans on the ballot.

President Donald Trump appears with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem in Sioux Falls in September 2018

President Donald Trump appears with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem in Sioux Falls in September 2018

President Donald Trump speaks to Kristi Noem during a meeting at the White House in December 2018

 President Donald Trump speaks to Kristi Noem during a meeting at the White House in December 2018

Despite not running for president, Noem has continued to position herself nationally.

She has been an outspoken champion for the National Rifle Association, even bragging at a spring convention for the gun-rights group that her one-year-old granddaughter ‘already has’ firearms. 

She has also defended South Dakota’s abortion ban and will appear at a Michigan fundraiser later this month to support Republican Senate candidate Mike Rogers.

During the first GOP presidential debate, she appeared in an ad to encourage businesses and families to move to what she calls ‘the freest state in America.’

Friday’s event is expected to draw protesters targeting both Trump and Noem, said Annie Bachand, CEO of the South Dakota-based group Liberty & Justice for All.

Noem was long considered a potential White House contender in her own right and told The New York Times in November that she didn't believe Trump offered 'the best chance' for the party in 2024. She is pictured in Eagle Pass, Texas last month

Noem was long considered a potential White House contender in her own right and told The New York Times in November that she didn’t believe Trump offered ‘the best chance’ for the party in 2024. She is pictured in Eagle Pass, Texas last month

A former member of Congress, Noem in 2018 squeezed out a surprisingly close win over a Democratic challenger to become South Dakota's first female governor

A former member of Congress, Noem in 2018 squeezed out a surprisingly close win over a Democratic challenger to become South Dakota’s first female governor

‘The reason that we show up is to demonstrate to other people that we’re not alone,’ Bachand said. 

‘Kristi Noem has spent more time out campaigning for I don’t know what than she has in South Dakota. She has more interest in her own self-interest than she does in taking care of the people of South Dakota.’

South Dakota GOP chair John Wiik said he expects about 7,000 people to attend the sold-out fundraiser. 

The event was first planned as a Lincoln Day-style fundraising dinner commonly held by local Republican groups, Wiik said, but it later ballooned into a rally with proceeds going to the state party.

‘I did get a lot of questions at first,’ Wiik said about Trump’s decision to travel to his state just as the primary season kicks into its traditional post-Labor Day overdrive.

‘But the more you look at it, Trump is a media event wherever he lands,’ Wiik said. 

‘He could do a rally on the moon and he’d spread his word and get just as many people, so I’m just glad he chose South Dakota.’

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