Gov. Noem Digs at Haley as Trump VP Speculation Mounts

Gov. Noem Digs at Haley as Trump VP Speculation Mounts

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Some at a pre-caucus Trump event in Sioux City questioned Noem’s VP potential while praising her record. Yet, at least one man glimpsed ‘a female Trump.’

SIOUX CITY, Iowa—With Iowa’s Republican caucus now less than two weeks away, speakers at a Sioux City event for former President Donald Trump hewed closely to a simple message: Get out and caucus on Jan. 15.

“Stand up with me. I want you to make a commitment with me,” said South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, the Jan. 3 event’s biggest star. The crowd rose to their feet as the Republican governor asked them to help “make sure that President Donald J. Trump is the next president.”

While her speech at Country Celebrations Event Center stood out for its focus on action and productive dialogue, Ms. Noem still reserved a cutting remark for another woman who has been talked up as a possible Trump vice presidential pick.

“I’ve heard so many different versions of [former South Carolina Gov.] Nikki Haley and met so many different versions of Nikki Haley, I don’t know who she is,” said Ms. Noem, whose home state lies just a few miles west of the venue where she spoke.

Her keenest attack landed on Ms. Haley’s decision to challenge President Trump.

“She said that she was never going to run for president against President Trump and now, she’s running for president. … She defends him and then she attacks him. … Whichever way the political winds blow is where she goes, and we cannot trust our country with somebody like that,” Ms. Noem said.

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Ms. Haley, who served as U.N. ambassador under President Trump, pledged in 2021 to stay out of the race if he entered it. Yet in February 2023, she began a campaign just months after President Trump declared his 2024 candidacy.

In a Newsmax interview on Jan. 2, Ms. Noem voiced her opposition to the idea of Ms. Haley as President Trump’s running mate.

She’s not alone in that view. Donald Trump Jr. told Newsmax late last month that he “would go to great lengths to make sure that” Ms. Haley doesn’t join his father’s campaign.
Ms. Noem’s September endorsement of President Trump stirred talk of her potential as a VP pick. Just weeks ago, Steve Bannon, an adviser to President Trump early in his time in the White House, listed Ms. Noem among the leading picks for that role.

During a Dec. 15 interview on the Sean Spicer Show, he said she would be “very competitive given her understanding of the MAGA movement.”

Messaging Contrasts With DeSantis’s in Council Bluffs

Ms. Noem repeatedly circled back to a few big themes. One of them was the importance of dialogue.

“I want you to start having conversations with people you haven’t talked to before,” she said. She told the crowd that she had married into a heavily Democrat family that had shifted in a more Republican direction.

An American flag at the Country Celebrations Event Center in Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 3, 2023. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem went there to rally supporters of former President Donald Trump ahead of the Jan. 15 Iowa Republican caucus. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)
An American flag at the Country Celebrations Event Center in Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 3, 2023. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem went there to rally supporters of former President Donald Trump ahead of the Jan. 15 Iowa Republican caucus. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)

“It didn’t change because I blew them up at the Christmas Day dinner table,” she said.

“We had conversations, and we talked about policies, and we had discussions, and eventually, they figured out I was right,” she said, drawing a laugh from the friendly audience.

The talking point doubled as a rejection of polarized politics and an invitation to proselytize ahead of the much-anticipated Jan. 15 Iowa caucus.

“When you’re pumping gas tonight at the gas station, ask the person at the next gas pump who they’re voting for and why and if they’re going to caucus, and ask them to go caucus for President Trump,” Ms. Noem said.

Yet, even as she urged listeners to build bridges, she stressed that many politicians “think they’re better than you.”

President Trump, she said, “doesn’t think he’s better than anybody else.”

She soon pivoted back to talk of the big day ahead.

“How many of you are going to caucus?” she asked.

That sort of focused, action-oriented messaging, consistent across multiple Trump events in the Hawkeye State, contrasted with how Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made the case for himself earlier that same day in Council Bluffs.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks with a conservative mother at Barley's, a bar and grill in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Jan. 3, 2024. Mr. DeSantis is entering the final stretch ahead of the Jan. 15 Iowa Republican caucus, a key early hurdle in the race to win his party's presidential nomination. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks with a conservative mother at Barley’s, a bar and grill in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Jan. 3, 2024. Mr. DeSantis is entering the final stretch ahead of the Jan. 15 Iowa Republican caucus, a key early hurdle in the race to win his party’s presidential nomination. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowans at Barley's, a bar and grill in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Jan. 3, 2024. Mr. DeSantis is entering the final stretch ahead of the Jan. 15 Iowa Republican caucus, a key early hurdle in the race to win his party's presidential nomination. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to Iowans at Barley’s, a bar and grill in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Jan. 3, 2024. Mr. DeSantis is entering the final stretch ahead of the Jan. 15 Iowa Republican caucus, a key early hurdle in the race to win his party’s presidential nomination. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)

Although Mr. DeSantis did close by inviting listeners to support him on Jan. 15, he sounded much like he did in past speeches, stressing his record at the helm of the Sunshine State and criticizing what many see as serious errors and shortcomings of the first Trump administration—for example, the handling of mRNA vaccine development for COVID-19.

Unlike Ms. Noem, Mr. DeSantis took question after question from audience members in a tight back room of a bar and grill called Barley’s.

He worked in some new material too, including about the resignation of Harvard University President Claudine Gay after accusations of anti-Semitism and subsequent allegations of large-scale plagiarism.

“I think a lot of Americans saw the intellectual rot that’s happened in these universities,” he said.

‘Basically a Female Trump’

Before Ms. Noem spoke in Sioux City, multiple attendees told The Epoch Times they could see her as President Trump’s running mate.

“I think she’d do what a VP needs to do, and I think she has the conservative values to do it,” Jim Mendenhall said. Mr. Mendenhall came to hear Ms. Noem from Salix, Iowa, a community about 5 miles south of the Sioux City line as the interstate follows the Missouri River downstream.

Hoar frost coats the landscape just off Interstate 29 between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 3, 2024. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)
Hoar frost coats the landscape just off Interstate 29 between Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 3, 2024. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)

“I think that would be to [Trump’s] advantage if he would choose her,”  said Sioux City resident Nicholas Kleve. He was in the front row with his father, Doyle Kleve.

The attendee wasn’t arguing as a die-hard Trump fan.

“We’re independents, so we’re not 100 percent sure who we’re voting for yet,” the younger Mr. Kleve explained.

Others see Ms. Noem’s VP prospects differently.

“I think he’s gonna pick someone else,” said Christine Constien, a Sioux City native who now lives in Nevada.

However, the two men sitting next to her in the front row, Reed Mayberry and Brad Schindler, were less certain.

“I think it’s an open door right now,” Mr. Schindler told The Epoch Times.

One seat down, Sandy Geidl, also from Sioux City, was one of multiple audience members wearing “Trump Caucus Captain” hats—white with the words stitched in gold.

Sandy Geidl, a Trump caucus captain from Sioux City, Iowa, waits to hear from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Jan. 3, 2024. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)
Sandy Geidl, a Trump caucus captain from Sioux City, Iowa, waits to hear from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Jan. 3, 2024. (Nathan Worcester/The Epoch Times)

“I think [Noem] could reach across to the independents, women, and even maybe the younger generation too,” she said, adding that Ms. Noem has “done an awesome job” in South Dakota.

South Dakotan Wes Jolin praised Ms. Noem’s performance, particularly when it comes to the state’s budget.

“I think he’s probably gonna need a woman vice president candidate,” Mr. Jolin said.

But he suggested that Ms. Noem’s home base in the Great Plains could be a hindrance.

“The problem with Kristi is that we’re in this little flyover belt. I don’t think she has the national prominence, maybe,” he said.

At least two attendees spoke in glowing terms of Ms. Noem after her speech.

“I love her. She’s beautiful, she’s well-spoken, she is smart,” said Linda Williams, a Trump caucus captain in Sioux City.

“I think she’d be a great vice president. … She’s basically a female Trump,” Jerry Coyle, another Sioux City local, said.

The Haley campaign didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

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