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Trump visits South Dakota, picking up an endorsement from Gov. Kristi Noem

South Dakota Governor, Kristi Noem welcomes 2024 Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump to the stage during a rally in Rapid City, South Dakota.
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS
/
AFP via Getty Images
South Dakota Governor, Kristi Noem welcomes 2024 Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump to the stage during a rally in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Just a few miles from Mount Rushmore, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem endorsed Donald Trump's presidential bid.

Noem has been a key ally to the Republican presidential front-runner over the years and praised the former president's time in the White House.

"He is a man of significance. He is the leader, the fighter, that our country needs," Noem said Friday, speaking at a rally in Rapid City, South Dakota.

"He has my full and complete endorsement for President of the United States of America. I will do everything in my power to help him win to save this great country."

Trump thanked Noem for her endorsement at a fundraiser for the state's Republican Party, saying "it means a lot." He has a strong historywith a state that many presidential contenders often overlook in their campaigning.

He won the state handily in 2016 and 2020 and has come to the sparsely populated state three times in the last five years.

Noem is known nationally for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. She refused to mandate shutdowns or enforce social distancing guidelines aimed at curbing the virus' spread. When Trump was running for reelection in 2020, she invited him to attend a Fourth of July fireworks display at the foot of Mount Rushmore, where he too flouted social distancing recommendations, and gave a speech warning of what he called "new far-left fascism."

A potential running mate audition

The endorsement shifts speculations about Noem's political future. The rising Republican governor was once considered a contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. Now, the event is raising the specter that Noem could be vying to serve as the former president's running mate. His former Vice President Mike Pence is now challenging Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.

A "Trump Noem" sign is displayed onstage as former president Donald Trump and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem hug during a rally in Rapid City, South Dakota.
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
A "Trump Noem" sign is displayed onstage as former president Donald Trump and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem hug during a rally in Rapid City, South Dakota.

As Noem and Trump appeared on stage together Friday night, a "Trump Noem 2024" sign briefly appeared on the arena's big screen. Some seated on the stage held signs supporting the two as well.

Yet Trump's nearly two-hour speech did not offer any indications as to who his 2024 vice presidential pick would be.

Defiant in the face of multiple investigations

It was Trump's first major appearance since pleading not guilty to charges stemming from his unsuccessful attempt to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.

He criticized the indictments, saying they are being used as political weapons.

"Our momentum is unprecedented and hopefully unstoppable and that's the reason that Joe Biden's ordered his leading opponent arrested on 91 fake and phony charges," Trump said, while hinting at his legal strategy of asking for dismissals on the charges.

In separate cases, Trump is charged with conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election, mishandling of classified documents and falsifying business records.

States attorneys in two states, New York and Georgia, have issued charges against Trump. Additional charges come from Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith.

Smith has defended the ethical rigor of his team's work. He's also emphasized that the defendants "must be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."

Copyright 2023 SDPB

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Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.