Popular conservative Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota was re-elected in November. And now, she’s dropping various hints that she’s eying higher office.
Noem appeared on Fox News last weekend and when she was asked about the possibility of running for president in 2024, she answered that she is “focused on doing my job here in South Dakota.”
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But she did discuss telling the story of what she had done in that state beyond South Dakota- “that’s a story that I think can bring hope to the rest of the country,” she said.
When asked if she would rule out a presidential run, Noem answered “that’s fair to say. But there are a lot of people out there talking about running for president. I also know that politics changes quickly and things change on a dime on who’s going to run and who’s not going to run. I want the best person.”
And while it’s very, very early, the candidates are already sniping with each other over contentious culture war topics.
A spokesperson for Noem recently ripped another potential 2024 candidate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, over his stance on abortion.
“Governor Noem was the only Governor in America on national television defending the Dobbs decision,” Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, said in an email to National Review, citing the Supreme Court decision last year that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Florida has a 15-week abortion ban signed by DeSantis, which is less restrictive than the bills signed in other Republican-governed states.
“Where was Governor DeSantis? Hiding behind a 15-week ban. Does he believe that 14-week-old babies don’t have a right to live?” Fury added. “Florida Right to Life is embarrassed by Gov. DeSantis’s record, so they invited Governor Noem to speak at their annual conference in October 2021.”
This followed a National Review story arguing that “gender ideology” activists have outsized power in deep-red South Dakota, and that Noem, who vetoed a bill that would have banned transgender athletes from women’s sports in that state, hasn’t done enough to oppose transgender rights.
In the February 2021 CPAC straw poll of potential, non-Trump 2024 presidential candidates, DeSantis finished first and Noem second. In the separate poll that included Trump, the former president placed first and DeSantis second.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager for part of the 2016 presidential campaign and someone whose influence in Trump World has waxed and waned in the years since, has informally advised Noem in the past and was reportedly in attendance at Noem’s second inauguration this week.
In the fall of 2021, Noem reportedly severed ties with Lewandowski, after he was accused of drunkenly sexually harassing a Trump donor at a charity event in Las Vegas, which Noem had attended. Around the same time, Noem forcefully denied a published rumor that she had engaged in an extramarital affair with Lewandowski.
In a 2021 Politico profile of another possible 2024 candidate, former South Carolina governor, and UN ambassador Nikki Haley, Lewandowski was quoted as calling Noem, as opposed to Haley, “the hotter, Trumpier, real American governor.” Lewandowski, in the reported act of harassing the donor, had referred to Noem as “hot” as well.
Also this week, Dakota News Now reported that Noem’s Social Security number, and those of her family, were published without redaction by the January 6 Committee during a hearing.
“My lawyers have asked the @WhiteHouse, the @USNatArchives, and @BennieGThompson which of them is responsible for leaking the Social Security Numbers of me, my husband, my 3 kids, and my son-in-law, What specific measures and remedies will be taken to protect our identities?” the governor tweeted.
Noem is also among the many governors who have banned the use of TikTok on state government-issued devices.
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.