Trump Veepstakes: The pros and cons of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem


Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles of potential running mates for presidential candidate Donald Trump on the 2024 Republican Party ticket.

A full-on horse race is underway for those hoping to stand alongside former President Donald Trump as his running mate on the stage at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee this summer.

Trump appears to be in no rush to select his potential future vice president as he remains stuck on trial in a New York City courtroom, but those widely considered to be on his shortlist are continuing to clamor for his favor.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem — one of the many names who traveled to Florida last weekend for a set of fundraisers with Trump which some described as “auditions” for the role — has long been considered a frontrunner on the shortlist, but recent negative headlines could be complicating her chances.


From left to right: House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and South Carolina Gov. Tim Scott. All have been floated as possible vice presidential running mates for former President Donald Trump. (Getty Images)

“The first rule of a VP pick is to do no harm, and Noem’s recent self-inflicted controversies have shown her potential selection would likely not provide support to the Trump candidacy without drama,” Axiom Strategies’ Erin Perrine told Fox News Digital, referencing a week of criticism aimed at Noem, who confessed in a recently released book excerpt to shooting her dog for attacking a neighbor’s chickens.

Noem spent the week aggressively pushing back on her critics over the story, arguing that the dog had been “vicious” as well as “dangerous,” and a potential threat to her family.

“I had to make a choice between the safety of my children and an animal that was killing livestock and attacking people,” Noem told Fox Business host Stuart Varney in a contentious interview on Tuesday. “So it’s included because a lot of politicians have run from the truth. They want to try to hide from tough decisions.”

Perrine, who served as Trump’s director of press communications for his 2020 re-election campaign, said that Noem had handled the book controversy “incredibly poorly,” and added that her seemingly false claim — also in the book — that she had once met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would hinder to her consideration.

“It’s easy to see how her selection could cause heartburn and doubt. These controversies will continue to be part of the conversation around her for some time. While Noem brings strengths to the table, these controversies would overshadow her candidacy and make her a more contentious choice for the VP slot,” Perrine said.


Kristi Noem

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem speaks before former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump takes the stage during a Buckeye Values PAC Rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on March 16, 2024. (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Democratic strategist Kevin Walling echoed Perrine’s concerns over Noem’s book, calling it a “total disaster,” and also pointed to the principle of “doing no harm” when it comes to political memoirs.

“Her recent turn in the national spotlight has likely tanked her chances of joining the ticket. Above all, Trump values an individual’s performance in TV appearances and her inability to answer simple questions about her own biography has been an embarrassment,” Walling said.

“Hailing from reliably red South Dakota provides some geographic balance to the ticket but wouldn’t drive actual help in the Electoral College in November,” he added.

Others put the prospect of Noem as Trump’s running mate a little more plainly, including pollster and political analyst Scott Rasmussen, who told Fox she “could have been an interesting option before her book release. At this point, she is no longer a serious contender.”

One top Republican strategist and former Trump administration official told Fox that Noem was “never a top contender to whom it matters most,” and, according to another former Trump official, “We all make mistakes at some point in our lives. Noem just made hers at the most inopportune time.”


Noem, Trump

Former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens as North Dakota Governor Kristi Noem speaks during a Buckeye Values PAC Rally in Vandalia, Ohio, on March 16, 2024. (KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Noem, though reeling from a bad few days that even Trump admitted had been “rough,” has a number of strengths and qualifications that experts point to that could serve as a potential boost to the former president’s White House chances.

“Noem is a two-term governor with both executive and legislative experience, having also served four terms in congress representing South Dakota. As both a woman and a member of Gen X, she would provide both gender and generational balance to the ticket, especially seeing more and more voters in their 50s and 60s trending towards the GOP brand,” Perrine said.

Falling to the right of Trump on issues like abortion, Perrine argued, could play a similar role for the campaign as former Vice President Mike Pence’s conservative credentials did in 2016 when it came to engaging with the hard right of the GOP voter base.

In addition to her time in various elected offices and appeals to the Republican base, Walling said that Noem, at 53, represents “a younger, fresher face for the party.”

“Her diverse background as a business owner, farmer, rancher and former congressional intern for college credit when she returned to finish her degree as a member of Congress adds depth to her candidacy. Notably, her candidacy could deflect Democratic attacks on the GOP’s stance on women’s issues,” he added.

Noem is expected to attend another fundraiser alongside Trump in New York City on Tuesday, a source familiar confirmed to Fox News Digital.


Trump VP 2

From left to right: Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. (Getty Images)

A number of other big names have also been floated to join Trump on the Republican ticket, including South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, House GOP Conference Chair Eliste Stefanik, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

It’s unclear when exactly Trump might announce his vice presidential pick, but he recently hinted that it could be shortly before the July RNC convention.

Fox News Digital has reached out to representatives of Noem for comment.

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.