OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Former President Donald Trump picked up a major endorsement Friday night during a rally in South Dakota, as Gov. Kristi Noem publicly announced she would back him for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
“Tonight, Mr. President, my message is clear: It is an honor to have you with us in South Dakota,” Noem said in front of a crowd of thousands in Rapid City, home to the Mount Rushmore National Monument. “You made America great again once. Let’s do it again.”
At that, Trump took the stage and briefly embraced the GOP governor as “TRUMP NOEM 2024” briefly flashed on a huge screen above the stage.
“Kristi is a warrior for American values,” Trump said, according to The New York Times.
After complimenting her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming one of the first states to reopen and stay open, Trump added: “I get endorsements, some good, some bad. Some don’t mean anything. Hers means a lot.”
It should be noted that just eight of the country’s 26 Republican governors have picked a side in the 2024 race. Besides Noem, Govs. Mike Dunleavy of Alaska, Jim Justice of West Virginia, and Henry McMaster of South Carolina have backed Trump. Two others — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum — are running against him.
In an interview with Fox News, Noem said she would “consider” becoming Trump’s running mate.
Once considered as a potential 2024 candidate herself, Noem made clear earlier this year she would not be running and would instead focus her attention and energies on her state. However, in the months since, she appears to be raising her profile nationally ahead of next year’s presidential contest and has even sparked conversations about becoming Trump’s running mate.
“She’s remained in contact and on good terms with the former president, according to sources familiar with their interactions. Though Noem didn’t attend last month’s first Republican presidential debate, ads touting her state’s low taxes and job openings aired during it and since then on Fox News,” CNN reported.
Noem also has another connection to Trump – Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager and confidante who has been an adviser to Noem since 2020.
Lewandowski and Trump had an on-again, off-again relationship for a time after the former president lost his reelection bid, but that appears to have leveled out now, and he regularly speaks to Trump, CNN said.
“The fact is, none of them can win as long as Trump’s in the race. And that’s just the facts. So why run if you can’t win,” Noem, who has been in touch with Trump and his campaign staff, said of his primary rivals during an interview on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends” last month.
As for whether she would be Trump’s running mate, she told Fox News host Sean Hannity recently: “Of course, I would consider it.”
“Everybody should consider it,” she added, per the Times. “If President Trump is going to be back in the White House, I’d do all I can to help him be successful.”
“When [Noem’s] name comes up in conversation, it’s been positive,” one source close to Trump told CNN. “She’s been loyal to him. She’s eloquent; she defends him but doesn’t steal the spotlight.”
Noem has harbored political aspirations for quite some time, CNN noted. In 2016, she underwent vetting for the position of Trump’s secretary of Agriculture but ultimately decided against pursuing it.
“I think she’s angling to keep all her options open. With everything being so fluid on the national stage, she has been very good about pushing her state as an example during COVID and all of these national hot-button issues. She’s kept her state at the forefront,” Republican strategist Matt Langston told the outlet.
“She’s got a bright future. She’s sticking with Trump, which is smart at this stage,” he added.