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South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is a neighbor to Iowans. And she’s currently the fastest rising star in the Republican Party. One would have to be ignorant to Iowa politics not to think she’s testing the waters early for a potential 2024 run for the presidency.

I know, I know. I’m just trying to make it through the 2020 election too.

But the reality is, as soon as this one is over, that one will start just a few months later.

Noem spent time in Congress and has enjoyed a brief stint as governor. She has a record that Republicans can pour over if and when the time comes that is necessary.

But for now, she is America’s freedom governor.

Noem burst onto the scene because of her handling of the COVID virus in South Dakota. She has quickly gone from small-state executive to potential White House hopeful in a matter of months.

Here are some of my first impressions of Noem.

*She is authentic. I am not quite sure how to say this in a way that comes across well, but sometimes certain female politicians can come off too much like cheerleaders. Perfect and ideal for when times are good, but sloppy and unprepared for when times are bad. You get the feeling that she talks in person with the same tone and tenor she spoke with in front of 300-plus Republicans at the fundraiser.

*She can connect. Every political ‘coach’ will drill one thing home to candidates — personal stories work. Personal stories have the ability to hook voters. They also help make people who might otherwise come across as ‘elite’ instead become relatable. Noem has the right kind of story for how she got into politics and it’s one many midwesterners will be able to identify with.

*She isn’t emotional. Noem made clear she did not want to make COVID decisions based on emotions, so she ignored the news, social media and outside comments. By all accounts, she made her decisions based on the advice of legal counsel and health professionals. She wasn’t interested in doing things that felt good, she said she wanted to do good.

*She knows the base. It seemed she was more than comfortable making pro-life arguments without blurring the lines. She was proud that constitutional carry was the first bill she signed as governor. Law and order mean something significant to her as well.

*She knows agriculture. An issue that matters to many Iowans. Her explanation of why agriculture is a national security issue was succinct, simple and undeniable. It’s a message folks on the coast definitely need to hear and, if she keeps it as short as she did on Friday night, people who don’t care won’t get lost in the details.

*She’s steady. Noem came across as confident, yet humble. She was unafraid to take questions. In all honesty, she did a good job of defining her toughness. She seemed like one of those people who would prefer to cut through the crap and not pretend to be something she’s not. She’ll say what she thinks, take it or leave it.

Ultimately, Noem doesn’t play the role of small-town farm girl — she lives it. I could be wrong, but my gut tells me there isn’t Kristi Noem the politician, and Kristi Noem the person. There’s just Kristi Noem.

Critiquing female politicians isn’t fun, but I want to add this — Noem comes across as a decisive leader who tells it like it is. She isn’t interested in catering to feelings. She doesn’t give a rip about the media and how it portrays her.

To be honest, I was surprised how steady she was in her speech. She didn’t rely on emotion or look for sympathy or compassion, she just calls it like she sees it. I appreciate that.

You get one chance to make a good first impression. By all accounts, Noem did that.

The 300-plus in attendance were right there with her throughout the speech and then the Q&A.

Regardless of her future, she’s already left a legacy for governors through her handling of the COVID pandemic. In an era when Americans needed a governor, just one, to show they trust their own citizens and didn’t think they needed to order their residents around, Noem stood up and served as that example.

Where she goes from here, who knows. But she is definitely one worth watching.

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall