Sept. 8 (Reuters) – South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is expected to endorse former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally on Friday, a person familiar with the matter said, increasing Trump’s lead in the 2024 presidential race the Republican Party could potentially expand.
Noem, a rising star in the party, has long been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Trump if he wins the nomination. His support is likely to fuel this speculation.
Noem is expected to announce her support at an evening rally in Rapid City, South Dakota, according to a person familiar with her plans. His spokesman declined to comment.
With Iowa’s first nominating contest still months away, only a handful of Republican governors have formally endorsed candidates in the crowded primary.
Republican strategist Matt Dole said Noem’s move to endorse at this early stage suggests she is increasingly confident that Trump, who is well ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other rivals in statewide polls, will will win primaries.
“It’s a sign that he’s solidifying the base behind his candidacy,” said Dole, who has advised gubernatorial and congressional candidates. “Governor Noem has a supporter in the Republican Party who likes her style and follows her career. I think it brings people to the table.”
Noem, 51, raised her national profile during the COVID-19 pandemic as she spoke out against restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. She is a strong supporter of Trump, which has earned her some popularity among her electorate.
Dole said she fits the likely profile of a vice presidential candidate Trump would consider, as she is governor of a conservative Midwestern state and has also served in Congress.