Following former President Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in last November’s presidential election, members of the Republican Party have been looking for a new candidate to lead the conservative party. In the last few months, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has emerged as a big name to challenge Biden and Harris in the 2024 election campaign. Governor Noem first gained national attention last year when she emerged as a strong ally of Trump. Noem has taken several meetings with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago home and famously gifted him a replica of Mount Rushmore with his face imposed on a portion of the monument.
In various straw polls conducted by the Republican Party, Noem remains the top choice for party loyalists should Trump choose not to run in 2024. Examining why Noem is such a popular choice, political analysts point to the 49-year-old governor’s image. For most of her tenure as governor, Noem has attempted to establish herself as a rugged product of the Great Plains. Noem regularly posts videos of herself riding horses on social media and has been a major critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recommendations for mitigating the coronavirus pandemic. Republican strategist David Kochel says that in today’s politics, Noem’s actions make her more attractive than traditional candidates. Rather than running on her achievements or building a coalition of supporters, Kochel says Noem hopes to make a name for herself by generating controversy. Giving one example, Kochel argues that voters interested in supporting Noem would be more impressed if she did something to attract the ire of Democrats than passing a major piece of legislation.
Although Noem might be on the fast track to the Republican’s 2024 nomination, she has nonetheless been met with skepticism from some members of the party. Noem received a negative reaction from social conservatives earlier this year for vetoing a measure approved by the South Dakota legislature that would have barred transgender girls from playing school sports. Noem’s constituents in South Dakota are also wary of her political ambitions outside of the state. Particularly, many voters are concerned that Noem’s avowed interest in the national stage have made it more difficult for her to effectively govern South Dakota. Rhonda Milstead, a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives, says that she supported Noem’s bid for the governorship because she felt that Noem cared for the people of the state. In examining Noem’s interest in getting elected to a higher office, Milstead cautions the governor to focus on the state for the time being and worry about other positions at a later date.