RAPID CITY, S.D.—Gov. Kristi Noem on Sept. 8 endorsed former President Donald Trump’s re-election bid.
“He is the leader, the fighter that our country needs. He has my full and complete endorsement for president of the United States,” the South Dakota governor told a crowd of thousands at a GOP rally in Rapid City.
“I will do everything I can to help him win and save this country.”
Ms. Noem then introduced President Trump, the rally headliner. A graphic reading “Trump Noem 2024″ then briefly appeared on the screen behind the stage.
President Trump thanked the governor, calling her “a warrior for American values.”
“I get endorsements, some good, some bad,” President Trump said. “Some don’t mean anything. Hers means a lot.”
Ms. Noem’s endorsement of President Trump capped a 20-minute speech highlighting how well South Dakota is faring in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also credited President Trump for making that success possible.
Many other states went along with national recommendations for shuttering businesses, churches and schools and stay-at-home orders. But, Ms. Noem said, “Those decisions were not leadership. They were made based on fear and control.”
But in South Dakota, “we focused on our facts,” Ms. Noem said, adding that scientific data about the coronavirus “did not support mandates or lockdowns.” That’s why she declared the state “open for business,” invited people to come visit and allowed citizens “to make the best decisions for themselves and for their loved ones.”
“I respected my oath to the United States in the South Dakota constitutions. I respected our freedom, and I respected our people,” she said. “Now if Joe Biden had been president, he would have tried to stop me from protecting you thank God President Trump was in the White House at the time.”
The crowd responded with loud cheers, applause and whistles as she added, “He let me do my job. And the results have been absolutely incredible.”
She said South Dakota recently recorded a 1.8-percent unemployment rate. “No state has ever had an unemployment rate that low,” the governor said. The state is seeing a population, housing and income boom, she said. And while cutting taxes, the state has enjoyed revenue surpluses.
“We are the strongest state in America because President Trump let me do my job. We seized that moment. And we told our story. As you travel this great country, point to South Dakota as the example of what is possible,” Ms. Noem said.
Then she shifted to more observations about President Trump. Before Ms. Noem became governor in 2019, she served in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Armed Services Committee. “I have seen President Trump take decisive action time and time again. He exhibits peace through strength he destroys our enemies and swiftly without hesitation,” Ms. Noem said.
Shortly after making that statement, Ms. Noem declared her endorsement for President Trump.
Media outlets had earlier reported Ms. Noem’s planned endorsement, which has also fueled speculation that the governor may become President Trump’s vice-presidential running mate.
Rumblings about that have been circulating for a while, Trump supporter Jeb Bordewyk of nearby Piedmont, South Dakota, told The Epoch Times as he stood outside The Monument arena hours before the former president was scheduled to speak.
But Mr. Bordewyk doubted that President Trump would be ready to announce his vice presidential choice just yet; Ms. Noem told Newsmax during a Sept. 7 interview that it was early to be having such discussions.
However, she has repeatedly stated that she would consider accepting such an invitation from President Trump.
Mr. Bordewyk sensed that Ms. Noem was likely to endorse the former president.
Ms. Noem’s endorsement of President Trump makes her only the fourth Republican governor to do so during the 2024 presidential campaign.
Among 26 Republican governors, only four have thrown their support to the former president thus far. Ms. Noem joins previous endorsers L Alaska’s Mike Dunleavy, South Carolina’s Henry McMaster, and West Virginia’s Jim Justice.
In addition, Ms. Noem’s endorsement stands in contrast with South Dakota’s two U.S. Senators.
Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds both announced their support for one of President Trump’s distant Republican rivals, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
President Trump has maintained a commanding lead in opinion polls.
According to the RealClear Politics average, President Trump is drawing almost 53 percent support, far outdistancing his nearest rivals, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (14 percent) and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (6.6 percent).
All other GOP presidential hopefuls, including Sen. Scott, are drawing less than 5 percent.
This event will mark the former president’s first full public speech in several weeks.
Legal troubles, including pleading not guilty to his fourth criminal indictment and having his historic mug shot taken in Georgia, have consumed much of President Trump’s time.
The former president, denouncing the indictments as “election interference,” remains undeterred in his pursuit of becoming the Republican presidential nominee for the third time.
The speech at the “Monumental Leaders” rally, an event benefiting the South Dakota GOP, is also President Trump’s first appearance in the state since his memorable speech at nearby Mount Rushmore on July 3, 2020, a pre-Independence Day celebration complete with fireworks.
Politicians often bypass South Dakota, which has only four electoral votes up for grabs.
It also runs a late primary election, set for June 4, 2024. That’s almost six months after the earliest primary states that often grab headlines and candidates’ attention, such as Iowa and New Hampshire.
But Ms. Noem said that is one reason she admires President Trump: He’s atypical among politicians.
“We’ve invited many other people to come to our state and talk to us and they keep saying how insignificant South Dakota is; it’s not important to be in South Dakota right now,” Ms. Noem told Newsmax earlier this week.
“And what I love about President Trump is that he said, ‘I will be there.’ He doesn’t ever overlook the little people. He doesn’t say states like South Dakota aren’t important. He knows every single person in this country is important. And that’s why people support him.”
“I think he’s going to have an inspiring speech,” she said. “I’m thankful that he’s coming to our state.”
Prior to the former president’s speech—which is set for 7 p.m. (Mountain Time) or 9 p.m. (Eastern Time)—other GOP leaders, including Ms. Noem, were expected to deliver remarks beginning about 90 minutes prior.
Earlier this summer, when South Dakota Republican Party Chairman John Wiik announced President Trump would be a special guest at the event, he said: “Our Monumental Leaders rally just got 45 times better as we look forward to hearing from the original America First leader, President Donald Trump,” Mr. Wiik said, giving a nod to the fact that President Trump was the nation’s 45th president.
“President Trump accomplished so much for our country during his time in office. As the leading presidential candidate, he can inspire our Republican Party to even greater heights,” Mr. Wiik said in a statement posted on the venue’s website,
About 7,000 tickets have been sold, according to organizers.