By Janice Hisle
RAPID CITY, S.D.—As Gov. Kristi Noem and thousands of fans welcome former President Donald Trump to a sold-out South Dakota GOP rally here on Sept. 8, many people think she will endorse his candidacy.
Some also think Ms. Noem may become his vice-presidential running mate.
Speculation on both points has been simmering for some time, Trump supporter Jeb Bordewyk of nearby Piedmont, South Dakota, told The Epoch Times on Sept. 8, as he stood outside The Monument ice arena about eight hours before President Trump was scheduled to take the stage.
But Mr. Bordewyk doubts that President Trump is 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 senses that Ms. Noem is likely to announce that she is endorsing the former president. “I don’t see her going any other direction,” he said.
If Ms. Noem does issue that endorsement as expected, she will become only the fourth Republican governor to do so during the 2024 presidential campaign.
So far, out of 26 Republican governors, only three have publicly thrown their support to the former president: Alaska’s Mike Dunleavy, South Carolina’s Henry McMaster, and West Virginia’s Jim Justice.
In addition, if Ms. Noem does endorse President Trump, she would be countering 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.
Former 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, will also be 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 overlook 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.