Former President Donald Trump received the endorsement of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem Friday night, as he appeared for a campaign rally in the state.
Noem told the crowd gathered in Rapid City that Trump has her “full and complete endorsement for president of the United States of America,” saying that she has seen him “take decisive action time and time again.”
“The only person in the race that I trust to do what needs to be done on these issues is President Trump. I haven’t seen these other candidates fight when it really mattered, when it was hard to do the right thing for our country,” Noem said.
The GOP governor’s endorsement, plans of which were first reported by CNN, underscores Trump’s lead and continued consolidation of power in the Republican presidential primary.
The Friday night event marked Trump’s first public appearance at a rally since he was indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, over charges related to interference in the 2020 election. For Noem, the endorsement marked a chance to cater a strong connection with Trump and establish herself as a loyal surrogate to his latest presidential campaign.
Trump in his remarks doubled down on his claims that the 91 criminal charges against him are politically motivated and meant to keep him from reelection. Ramping up his rhetoric, he called on his supporters to “fight like hell” to “take back our country.”
“We will fight together, we will win together and then we will seek justice together,” he told the crowd.
The rally comes at a time when Trump, the Republican front-runner, is expanding his lead in the GOP primary, but is still devoting a large amount of time to dealing with the felony charges against him across four indictments.
Top advisers and officials under Trump from his administration are also battling lawsuits.
On Thursday, Peter Navarro, the former director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy during the Trump administration, was convicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to adhere to a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. And earlier Friday evening, a federal judge rejected Mark Meadows’ bid to move his Georgia criminal case to federal court, a significant setback for Trump’s onetime White House chief of staff and a troubling sign for the former president.
Developments like that, though, have not had much of an effect on Trump’s lead in the primary. Recent polling has shown Trump with a wide lead over his opponents in the primary, including a CNN/SSRS poll released this week that found he was ahead of his nearest opponent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by more than 30 points.
Trump’s appearance in South Dakota also highlights another dynamic of the primary: most governors thus far have refrained from endorsing in the presidential race. Two sitting Republican governors are running for president – DeSantis and Doug Burgum of North Dakota – and Trump has been endorsed by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice.
This headline and story have been updated with additional developments.