‘She’s DOA’: Noem’s dog tale sinks chances of becoming Trump’s VP (2024)

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has found herself in the doghouse after a shocking anecdote from her forthcoming book made the rounds in recent days.

Noem attracted criticism and mockery in political circles after it was reported that her upcoming book detailed the story of how roughly 20 years ago, she shot and killed her 14-month-old Germanwirehaired pointer, Cricket, due to poor behavior. The governor elaborated on the story in a social media post Sunday, and she has tried to characterize the story and her willingness to share it as a sign of her authenticity and willingness to make difficult choices.

But the anecdote, paired with other recent controversies involving her, left many Republicans scratching their heads, with some suggesting she had tanked her prospects of serving as former President Trump’s 2024 running mate.

“She’s DOA,” one Trump ally said of Noem’s vice presidential prospects.

“Any time you have to respond more than once to a story, it’s not good,” they added of the dog tale.

Noem, a former congresswoman who won a second term as governor in 2022, had for months been considered among the top contenders to serve as Trump’s potential VP.

She was an early endorser of Trump, tied with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy for the top choice as Trump’s vice presidential pick in a straw poll conducted at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference, and campaigned with Trump in Ohio in March.

She has been at the forefront of major conservative causes, sending National Guard forces to the southern border and signing legislation to restrict abortion and ban gender-affirming care, among other things.

But some of the buzz around her prospects has faded, largely because of what Republican strategists and Trump allies view as self-inflicted mistakes and controversies.

“She’s basically taken herself out of the running to be VP,” one Republican strategist told The Hill.

“There’s so many things wrong with that story on so many levels,” the strategist added about the dog story in particular, adding they were confounded by the fact Noem had months to write, edit and publish the book and still left the story of shooting the dog in the final draft.

Noem, in an excerpt from “No Going Back” that was first reported by The Guardian, described shooting and killing her 14-month-old dog after it had killed a local family’s chickens and had shown aggressive behavior.

In the book and in a subsequent social media post, Noem has portrayed the story as an illustration of her characteristics as a leader.

“I guess if I were a better politician I wouldn’t tell the story here,” Noem wrote, according to The Guardian.

In the face of bipartisan backlash, Noem on Sunday took to social media to defend her actions and decision to publicize the story.

“The book is filled with many honest stories of my life, good and bad days, challenges, painful decisions, and lessons learned,” Noem posted on the social platform X.

“What I learned from my years of public service, especially leading South Dakota through COVID, is people are looking for leaders who are authentic, willing to learn from the past, and don’t shy away from tough challenges,” she added.

Democratic governors mocked Noem by sharing photos with their own pets with the caption, “Post a picture with your dog that doesn’t involve shooting them and throwing them in a gravel pit.”

Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former Trump spokesperson, wrote on X that she was “horrified” by the anecdote.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the story “very sad,” but declined to weigh in further Monday.

The latest controversy is not the first time this year Noem has found herself in the national spotlight.

Earlier this month, four Native American tribes in the state barred her from their reservations, citing her comments suggesting some tribal leaders were “personally benefiting” from the presence of Mexican drug cartels.

Noem also attracted scrutiny after she posted a five-minute video on social media in March that was essentially an infomercial for a Texas-based cosmetic dentist where she had work done. State law in South Dakota bans gifts of more than $100 from lobbyists to public officials.

The governor’s propensity for finding the spotlight could ultimately work against her with Trump, whose allies maintain he does not want to be overshadowed by his eventual running mate.

“’No drama’ is going to be important,” the Republican strategist who spoke to The Hill said. “The whole deal is, you are looking for a stable No. 2 who could conceivably go on to be the party standard-bearer after four years.”

Michael Card, an associate professor of political science at the University of South Dakota, argued Noem’s latest controversy is different from her previous ones because the death of a pet resonates with so many Americans.

“It deals with something everybody understands. We either have had a pet die or know someone who had a pet die,” Card said.

Noem, who won reelection in 2022 with 62 percent of the vote, would likely fare just as well if she ran for statewide office again in the deep red state, Card said. But Noem is term limited, so she will not be able to run for reelection when her term ends in 2026.

Instead, she may be positioned for an ambassadorship or some other role in a potential second Trump administration, or for another role in GOP politics.

But Noem’s vice presidential chances, where she was seen as a potential running mate who could solidify Trump’s support with the evangelical base and assuage concerns about his age and treatment of women, have certainly taken a hit.

“Her ability to garner votes was somewhat limited to begin with, and I don’t think this will help much,” Card said.

‘She’s DOA’: Noem’s dog tale sinks chances of becoming Trump’s VP (2024)
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