South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem could end up being a frontrunner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination as she continues to stand out in the crowded Republican field.
A CPAC straw poll found Noem had 11% of support, coming in third behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to The New York Times (NYT).
Noem spoke at CPAC and is slated to speak at a Republican National Committee donor summit in April, according to Politico. The retreat is slated to feature “several would-be contenders,” according to Politico. Others expected to speak include DeSantis, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and other Republicans possibly eyeing a 2024 bid. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE VIDEOS: Trump Supporters Line Up Outside CPAC, Cheer As Former President Takes Stage)
Politico branded the donor retreat as a “prime stop for future presidential candidates.”
Noem is also attending a fundraiser for her 2022 re-election campaign at Mar-a-Lago on March 5, according to Politico. The event will be a fundraiser for Noem’s re-election campaign and will be hosted by Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle, according to the report.
“Kristi Noem should be considered a top tier candidate for the Republican nomination if and only if Donald Trump chooses not to run,” assistant professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell John Cluverius said, according to The National Interest. “She’s well-distanced from the Republican establishment in Washington, she’s been a fierce critic of reopening, and her state has generally done well in the vaccine rollout.”
Noem has also attracted attention for her decision to keep her state relatively ‘free’ amid nationwide lockdowns due to the coronavirus.
Noem refrained from implementing a statewide mask mandate and didn’t shut down the state. South Dakota ranks eighth in the U.S. COVID-19 deaths per capita, according to a breakdown from Statista. South Dakota has roughly 213 deaths per 100,000 citizens compared to New Jersey – which ranks number 1 – which has 262 deaths per 100,000 citizens.
Noem recently criticized the coronavirus relief package as a bailout for Democrat states during an interview for Fox News.
“It bails out those states that shut down their economies. It rewards them for making people stay in their homes and for taking away a business’ right to be open and take care of their customers and employees,” Noem told Fox’s Bill Hemmer.
“We made the right decisions. We trusted people. We have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and are tied for it with Nebraska and we’re getting through this together. What this bill does is reward New York and Illinois and California for their bad actions and their overstep of our personal liberties and freedoms.”
Noem also hasn’t been shy in calling out the media and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Noem took aim at Fauci while speaking at CPAC, saying Fauci has gotten numbers wrong quite a lot.
“We never focused on the case numbers. Instead we kept our eye on hospital capacity. Now, Dr. Fauci, he told me that on my worst day I’d have 10,000 patients in the hospital. On our worst day, we had a little over 600. Now, I don’t know if you agree with me, but Dr. Fauci is wrong a lot.”
.@govkristinoem: “Now Dr. Fauci, he told me that on my worst day I’d have 10,000 patients in the hospital.
On our worst day, we had a little over 600.
I don’t know if you agree with me, but Dr. Fauci is wrong a lot.” pic.twitter.com/PeSoc39N1i
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 27, 2021
Fauci then said Noem’s comments were not “helpful” while speaking in an interview on CBS’ “Face The Nation” on Sunday.
“It’s unfortunate, but it is not really helpful because sometimes you think things are going well,” Fauci said in response to Noem’s CPAC comments. “Just take a look at the numbers, they don’t lie.”
Fauci responds to @govkristinoem saying that he “is wrong a lot.”
“It’s unfortunate but it’s not really helpful… just take a look at the numbers they don’t lie.” pic.twitter.com/5xmGZtuVIA
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 28, 2021
In a follow-up interview, Noem took aim at Fauci for allegedly wrongly accusing her of ignoring medical advice.
Gov. @KristiNoem responds to Dr. Fauci:
“You indicated I ignored medical advice, and I didn’t listen to my health experts. I most certainly did. What I did, though, is tell my people the truth.” pic.twitter.com/McI8B7KSUc
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) February 28, 2021
“You indicated I ignored medical advice, and I didn’t listen to my health experts. And I most certainly did. In South Dakota, we took this virus very seriously. What I did, though, was tell my people the truth. I gave them personal responsibility over decisions for their family’s public health, but also gave them the flexibility they needed to keep their businesses open, take care of their employees and their customers.”
Still, the state has seen a relatively low case count aside from a spike between October and January, according to data from the NYT. The state has also had less than 2,000 COVID-19-related deaths, according to data from the NYT.
Noem criticized the media for their coverage of her response during a 9-minute video from June.
“We took a unique path. We haven’t locked people up, we didn’t force businesses or churches to close or order a statewide shelter in place. In return, the mainstream media has spent many hours and nearly endless column inches attacking me for that. But countless South Dakotans have thanked me for trusting them.”
She again criticized the media in December, saying they’ve “ignored spikes in states that did everything ‘right’ while devastating their economies.”
Many in the media have criticized my approach to #COVID19, labeling me ill-informed, reckless and even a “denier.” Meanwhile, the media has ignored spikes in states that did everything “right” while devastating their economies. https://t.co/oBfeOSoKEW
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) December 8, 2020
Noem’s 98-year-old grandmother passed away in a nursing home in November. An article in the Daily Beast appeared to blame her grandmother’s death on the governor’s coronavirus policies despite her grandmother testing negative, Fox News reported.
“Anti-Mask Guy’s Grandmother Died In Nursing Home Ravaged By COVID” read the piece’s headline. The byline read “and yet Kristi Noem continues to downplay the virus, refuse a mask mandate, and ignore the terrible price her state is paying.”
Aldys Arnold was said to have tested negative for the coronavirus, despite 13 other’s reportedly succumbing to the virus during a two-week period
The article received swift condemnation across Twitter for its apparent misleading analysis.
“Stop using deaths to make your political points,” Reagan Battalion tweeted.
What a disgusting, opportunistic, utterly shameful article by @MichaelDalynyc.@KristiNoem’s grandmother did not die from COVID, stop using deaths to make your political points. https://t.co/F0KzapzSFH
— Reagan Battalion (@ReaganBattalion) December 2, 2020
Dana Loesch said the story was the perfect example as to why “people loathe media.”
Second sentence of the piece: “The 98-year-old grandmother, Aldys Arnold, is said by Noem’s office to have tested negative for the virus”
This is why people loathe media. https://t.co/a7nChT7UxJ
— Dana Loesch (@DLoesch) December 2, 2020
Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs said he was “disgusted at blatantly dishonest attempts to twist the tragic passing” of Arnold “for political purposes.”
Many in the mainstream media hate freedom and those who defend the freedom of their constituents.
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) December 2, 2020
USA Today ran a piece in November in the midst of a surge in the state entitled “The Dakotas are ‘as bad as it gets anywhere int he world’ for COVID-19.” Noem was blamed for ignoring public health measures that could have curbed the virus in the article.
Bloomberg ran a piece entitled “Covid’s South Dakota Rampage Created a Failed Experiment in Herd Immunity,” that criticized Noem’s decision to refuse to implement safety precautions.
In contrast, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo received rather glowing reviews for his pandemic response up until recently when it was discovered that his administration knowingly undercounted nursing home deaths.
“In Coronavirus Response, Andrew Cuomo Wins Over Past Critics,” a March 19 Wall Street Journal headline read. Politico even dedicated an entire article to talk about how Cuomo had become a shining light in the early days of the pandemic.
The Atlantic called Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s response a “dramatic success.”
“Newsom’s moves – and those of other blue-state governors who have taken the lead in confronting the crisis in the face of the Trump administration’s failures–are the sort of deceive action that Americans might have more readily expected from the federal government,” the article read.