SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem pledged her allegiance to her job and affirmed her friendship with Sen. John Thune, after President Donald Trump took aim at the state's senior U.S. senator's position on Twitter.
Noem won't challenge Thune for his job and pledged to run for another term as governor in 2022, she said in a late Tuesday, Dec. 22, tweet from her campaign account.
"(Thune) is a friend of mine, and I will not be challenging him," she wrote. "I’m honored to be Governor of South Dakota and will ask the people to give me an opportunity to continue serving them as Governor in 2022."
The dust-up adds more texture to the speculation over Noem’s political future, which has garnered attention as her star has risen within conservative political circles in 2020 due to her hands-off approach to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
.@johnthune is a friend of mine, and I will not be challenging him. I’m honored to be Governor of South Dakota and will ask the people to give me an opportunity to continue serving them as Governor in 2022.— Kristi Noem (@KristiNoem) December 23, 2020
The outgoing president attacked Thune later Tuesday night, saying the fellow Republican and Senate majority whip would face a primary challenger in the next election after helping shepherd a $900 billion COVID-19 stimulus package through Congress. Thune's six-year term ends in 2023.
Thune also rebuffed a potential attempt by Trump to get senators to challenge the Senate's counting of the Electoral College votes on Jan. 6, telling reporters on Monday, "in the Senate it would go down like a shot dog."
As Trump often does to those he sees as political enemies, he took to Twitter to boast Republicans wouldn't have control of the Senate if not for him, and to disparage and belittle Thune. Trump called Thune a RINO, an acronym for "Republican In Name Only," and "Mitch's boy," referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over," Trump tweeted, adding three exclamation points to the end of his message.
Republicans in the Senate so quickly forget. Right now they would be down 8 seats without my backing them in the last Election. RINO John Thune, “Mitch’s boy”, should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
Thune, who didn't comment on Trump's tweet, has been a senator since he beat then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004, ran uncontested in 2010 and won re-election in 2016 with more than 71% of the vote. His campaign committee has a $13.1 million war chest, according to federal fundraising data gathered by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Trump on Tuesday night separately called the bipartisan relief bill a "disgrace" in a video he posted to social media and demanded changes, threatening to not sign the bill. His statements cast doubt on the immediate future of the legislation, which contains key measures meant to kick in before previously approved spending lapses Dec. 28.
Noem, a former congresswoman from South Dakota, has relished her expanded national profile in 2020, sparking rumors she's seeking a national office.
Noem has typically batted down such rumors this year, even as she has crisscrossed the country on campaign stops for Trump, fundraising for herself and making frequent appearances on national conservative media. One possible role: a primary challenger to Thune for his Senate seat.
But late Tuesday, Noem took to her personal/campaign Twitter account to re-affirm she doesn't seek Thune's job.
For his part, Thune later issued his own tweet calling the COVID-19 stimulus bill "much-needed relief" for Americans burdened by the pandemic..
"This deal comes at a critical time as vaccines are being distributed," he wrote. "There’s light at the end of the tunnel."
Congress has finally passed a targeted COVID bill to give much-needed relief to Americans who've shouldered the weight of this pandemic & provide more vaccine resources. This deal comes at a critical time as vaccines are being distributed. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.— Senator John Thune (@SenJohnThune) December 22, 2020