Among the many contenders to be the “next Donald Trump” (if such a thing actually exists) there are, well, a lot of dudes.
There’s Trump heir Don Jr., former VP Mike Pence, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Florida Sen. Rick Scott …
You get the idea. LOTS of dudes.
And then there is Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota and someone making quite clear that when if she runs for president in 2024, she will do so as the female incarnation of the 45th President.
The latest evidence of that positioning came Monday morning, when Noem tweeted “#SparklersSuck” accompanied by several images: The first (labeled “Trump’s America”) showed fireworks bursting over South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. The second two (labeled “Biden’s America”) show Noem and her family looking sad while holding small sparklers.
The message was unmistakable. Donald Trump went big – and awesome. Joe Biden, well, doesn’t.
And the tactic was familiar to anyone who has watched Trump over these past five years: Use social media to a) throw red meat to the GOP base who loves a good troll and b) enflame Democrats, knowing that their outrage will only help beef up your bona fides with the GOP base. (That some people on Twitter noted that the “Trump’s America” photo appeared to be a composite image from 2015 will do little to slow the efficacy of Noem’s move.)
For Noem, the tweet is part of a broader effort to appeal to the Trump base as the spitting image of the former President.
Consider Noem’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in her state. In the fall of 2020, as the small-population state was averaging more than 1,000 new cases a day and was designated by Forbes as one of the 10 riskiest states in the country to visit, Noem was determined to raise questions about mask-wearing.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference this spring, Noem sought to cast her handling of Covid-19 in South Dakota as a success story and a victory for, er, liberty.
“South Dakota is the only state in America that never ordered a single business or church to close,” said Noem. “South Dakota never instituted shelter in place, never mandated people wear masks.”
(Sidebar: At the time Noem delivered that CPAC speech – early March –South Dakota had the second highest number of cases per 100,000 residents in the country, according to CNN’s data from the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.) Noem is on the docket to speak at a CPAC gathering this weekend in Dallas.
She also drew national attention when she condemned rapper Lis Nas X’s “Satan Shoes” – which allegedly contained a drop of human blood. “Our kids are being told that this kind of product is, not only okay, it’s ‘exclusive,’” Noem tweeted. “But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul.”
And let’s not forget – let us NEVER forget – that Noem once presented Trump with a 4-foot replica of Mount Rushmore with his head added next to those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
Yup. That happened.
While what Noem is doing is utterly transparent, it also appears to be working. The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin nailed that success here:
“If Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is widely seen as the brash heir apparent to Mr. Trump, and senators like Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton are attempting to put a more ideological frame on Trumpism, Ms. Noem is trying to cement her place as the only female Trump ally echoing the former president’s trigger-the-left approach among the upper tiers of potential 2024 candidates. “
The Point: For all the talk of Trump running again and the rise of DeSantis, Noem may be doing the most to raise her profile – and cast herself as the (female) heir to the former President.