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Trump, Noem to headline GOP rally in Rapid City on Friday

Donald Trump (left) and Kristi Noem (right).
Donald Trump (left) and Kristi Noem (right).

Former President Donald Trump is attending a sold-out rally in Rapid City on Friday.

The event is billed as a fundraiser for the state Republican party, though the event could signal much more.

State GOP leaders say Donald Trump is visiting South Dakota out of the kindness of his heart, rather than to bolster his own presidential campaign. He will attend the first Monumental Leaders dinner—which is billed as a celebration of state Republican party leaders.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem is scheduled to speak at the event, which will get held at The Monument civic center near downtown.

The dinner was originally scheduled for July, but got pushed back to September to accommodate the Trump appearance.

Strategically, the event has some perplexed.

“It’s not like South Dakota would be on the top of my list if I were Donald Trump," said Jon Schaff, a political science professor at Northern State.

Schaff said that’s because the state is all but guaranteed to vote for Trump in the primary and general elections.

Schaff said the presidential candidate would stand to benefit from shoring up his position in the party in states where the margins are thinner—like Arizona, Minnesota and Michigan.

“It’s hard to see how he benefits from this. If they’re raising money, I don’t know that they’re going to raise a ton. I don’t know how much national news this would garner him," Schaff said. "He doesn’t really need the state for the primary or the general election. It seems like this helps the South Dakota Republican party far more than it helps Donald Trump.”

Schaff speculates the appearance could be in part to recapture the lightning from his appearance at Mt. Rushmore during the 2020 Independence Day fireworks show.

The state’s U.S. Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds are backing South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott. None of the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation are scheduled to attend the event.

When asked why the Republican front-runner would come to western South Dakota, Republican Party Chair John Wiik says "why not?"

“Why did he do a stop in Alabama? He goes where his support is strong to feel supported. Wouldn’t you?” Wiik said. “Just to keep that momentum going. Campaigns are long, grueling events. If you can have an easy stop somewhere, take it.”

But it’s unclear what, aside from feeling supported, that the stop will result in much for the New York businessman. Wiik said as far as he knows the event is a fundraiser for the state GOP, not the Trump campaign.

Ticket packages range from $1,000 to $25,000, with the highest getting attendees access to a round-table with Trump and Noem, as well as a photo with the former president.

Noem was long rumored to enter the 2024 presidential race, but the announcement never came. She's since batted questions about whether she will throw her hat in the ring.

“Right now, in the Republican Primary I don’t see a pathway for anybody to win with President Trump in the race,” Noem said in July. “Circumstances can change, but we’ll have to wait a period of time to see.”

Noem has remained loyal to Trump. Some see the second-term Republican governor as Trump’s next potential running mate.

Trump is facing dozens felony charges across two states and by the US Department of Justice for attempts to overturn the 2020 election, mishandling classified information, and falsifying business documents.

Trump waived his arraignment in Georgia, which was scheduled for this week.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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