Kristi Noem's on a political rocket ship, but don't rule out a crash

But sustaining the GOP’s interest has proved more difficult as the pandemic lingers on. Noem has some built-in disadvantages as a national candidate: Her tiny state is not a locus of coastal media attention; its small agricultural economy limits her natural fundraising base. And even in South Dakota, Noem has suffered from a shift in public focus from Covid freedom to concerns that have proved harder for her to manage. She’s the target of a conflict-of-interest probe involving her daughter, Kassidy Peters; she waffled on legislation to ban transgender women and girls from playing women’s sports; she fumbled in the GOP’s curriculum wars, delaying a closely watched review of the state’s social studies standards. And she cut loose a close adviser, Corey Lewandowski, following accusations the former Trump campaign manager made unwanted sexual advances toward a woman at a charity event last year.

Two years from the next presidential election, what does Noem have her sights on, exactly? Normally, you might say she’s testing the waters for president, one of a generation of up-and-coming red state leaders positioning themselves as antidotes to a second Joe Biden term. But in the time of Trump, with a celebrity kingmaker still firmly in charge of the GOP, she’s also running to stay on his radar as a potential asset…

But there is also a sense in Trumpworld, after watching Noem’s first term as governor, that she may not be seasoned enough for a national campaign, another person close to Trump’s operation said. She is being compared with Vice President Kamala Harris, a young politician with star potential but whose low approval ratings and office turmoil have not helped — and may be a drag on — her boss. “There’s a feeling she’s not ready,” this person said.