It’s billed as a fundraiser for the South Dakota GOP, but a Friday rally with former President Donald Trump and the deep red state’s conservative two-term Gov. Kristi Noem could signal much more.
Trump, the commanding front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is headlining the sold-out political gathering in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Noem, a longtime Trump supporter and ally, will appear with him on stage and is expected to endorse the former president. And just as important, the appearance of the two politicians joining forces is sparking speculation that the former president may be eyeing the governor as a potential running mate in 2024.
“We have not discussed it at all,” Noem said Thursday during an appearance on “Fox and Friends.”
Asked in a Fox News Digital interview later Thursday if teaming up with Trump should be seen as a possible screen test or audition for running mate, Noem answered: “I don’t think so.”
But she’s not ruling anything out.
“Yeah. I’d have to consider it,” the governor said when asked what she would do if she was offered the job. “I think everybody would have to consider it if they were asked that question. It’s such an important time in our history where we see constitutional freedoms being undermined by leaders across this country almost every day.”
“We all should step up to make sure we’re doing all that we can to keeping our freedoms, our values, America the way that it’s always been in place,” she said.
Last year Noem mulled a 2024 White House run of her own. But she’s been very clear in recent months that Trump is unbeatable for the GOP nomination, stressing that “he’s the one that can win.”
“I do feel pretty confident that President Trump will be the Republican nominee for president,” she told Fox News Digital. “He obviously has a record that he’s running on and people know with him what they’re getting. I think these other candidates that are in may be good people, but their record isn’t just as impressive.”
Noem, pointing to Trump, emphasized that “the guy shows up.”
The governor said that the other Republican presidential contenders were invited to the South Dakota GOP gala, but that “all of them had somewhere else they needed to be or had different priorities or said they were only going to focus on Iowa and New Hampshire. That’s really what I think is impressive about President Trump is that everybody matters to him.”
Taking aim at Trump’s rivals for the nomination, Noem argued “look at everybody who’s standing on that stage and their record — you can’t rewrite history. So many of these candidates are trying to re-write history.”
Noem — who kept South Dakota open as the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe in 2020 — took an apparent swipe at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is a distant second to Trump in most early 2024 polls.
“People on that stage shut down their businesses. They shut down their states and their beaches,” she said.
South Dakota’s two GOP senators — John Thune and Mike Rounds — have already endorsed Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina for the GOP nomination. None of the members of the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation are scheduled to attend the state party event.
Noem has yet to endorse in the 2024 White House race, but teased that a formal backing of Trump would come at Friday’s gathering.
“I’ve talked openly that he’s the candidate that I’m supporting. So tomorrow we’ll have some conversations at the rally that I think everybody will be interested in,” she told Fox News. “Of course he’s absolutely the best choice for us. I don’t know of any other candidate that’s running for president right now that fought when it mattered.”
And multiple sources confirmed to Fox News’ Mike Emanuel on Thursday that Noem’s expected to formally endorse Trump at the Rapid City event.
A source in Noem’s political orbit touted to Fox News that the governor “would be a fantastic addition to a Trump ticket.”
Trump’s political team says that the former president hasn’t really engaged yet when it comes to a running mate, as the race for the GOP nomination and his history making four indictments are preoccupying his time.
The former president, who skipped last month’s first Republican nomination debate, took to social media ahead of the showdown to say, “Let them debate so I can see who I MIGHT consider for Vice President!”
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel and Brandon Gillespie contributed to this story