On the Ground at the CA GOP Convention: Is This the End of the Line for Kristi Noem?

Kristi Noem at CA GOP Convention 5-18-24. (Credit: Bob Hoge)

I attended the California GOP convention Friday and Saturday in Burlingame, just a stone’s throw from the San Francisco airport. Much of the buzz beforehand was about what the reception would be for embattled South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, whose recent book “No Going Back” has received heavy criticism from both Republicans and Democrats over the story of how she shot and killed a dangerous dog. 

Ranchers and farmers argued that this was sometimes the reality of life in rural locales, while dog lovers condemned her for showing a lack of compassion in her rendition of the story.

My own two cents, having spent many a summer on a ranch: reality can be tough sometimes, and decisions that a city-dweller could not fathom become inevitable when dealing with wildlife and livestock far away from a friendly veterinarian. That being said, I don’t believe that particular tale needed to be told, and if she felt it was essential that it be included, she would have been wise to reveal more emotion and internal conflict about the ordeal. 

One thing I’ve learned as a writer and as a human being is that people feel very strongly about their canine friends.

But there she was, scheduled to speak, and chatter at the cocktail parties and the many strategy meetings the day before her arrival seemed to indicate that most California Republicans disapproved of the story and considered it a big mistake to include it in the book. The question many were asking was, would she be booed?

Here’s the answer: no, she was not heckled and the crowd seemed to react positively to her entrance. She seemed unshaken by the drama and delivered what I considered to be a confident and very solid speech. It was Trumpesque in its themes, full of patriotism and focus on the potential of the individual; however, her delivery was not at all Trumpian as she delivered her remarks in calm, measured tones (albeit with dashes of humor) and did not attempt to rile up the crowd. She did not rely on a teleprompter and almost never looked down at her notes; it was another remarkable contrast to the disastrous Joe Biden speeches where he awkwardly reads off the prompter like some bad version of an AI phone bank helpline.

My colleague Jerry Wilson, who also watched the speech, wrote an excellent summation of her remarks:

South Dakota Gov Kristi Noem Brings Quiet Fire to the California GOP Convention

Afterward, I spoke with other journos in the press room and also with delegates, candidates, and guests at the convention hub and took an informal survey—“What did you think?” The answers I received were all along the lines of “good.” “Solid.” “I liked it.” 

No one answered, “That was an absolute stupendous speech,” but no one replied, “That was garbage,” either.

In sum, the results of my unscientific survey and my personal reaction to her speech lead me to wrap it up this way: I think Noem damaged herself with the dog-shooting story, and with her odd claim that she met with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un when that appears to be untrue—but I do not think we’ve seen the end of her. We’ve witnessed single moments end political careers—think Howard Dean and his infamous scream—but to my mind, this wasn’t one of them.


Noem's speech and her life story are still compelling, as is her solid record of conservative achievement as governor of South Dakota, and one "own goal" in a book may not be able to wreck all that.

We currently have a president who has more gaffes than a circus clown and more lies on his record than Pinocchio, yet somehow, his political life has been able to meander endlessly along for decades. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, meanwhile, stands a very good chance of being president again despite a scandal that at the time seemed sure to kill any political hopes—the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. Yet he went on from that debacle to win the 2016 election.

Noem didn’t address the book controversies directly Sunday, although she did give a sly sort of grin as she acknowledged that her tome was the subject of much discussion. I’m torn about this; part of me thought she should just take it head on, but another part of me wondered whether that would just keep the focus on those stories—and not on all the other important things she was talking about. There’s no right answer.

This was a costly blunder that may have cost her a shot at the vice presidency this time around, but I think we’ll be seeing her plenty more in the future as a strong conservative voice who is proudly pro-American. That's my two cents, but the subject of Noem’s book and the stories contained within have already caused much disagreement among conservatives and progressives alike, and I imagine there will be plenty of dissenting viewpoints. Have at it in the comments section!

More RedState opinions on Kristi Noem:

Kristi Noem Just Cricketed Her Career in Disastrous Interview

Should We Be Mad at Kristi Noem for Killing Her Dog?

'He Died Like A Dog': How Kristi Noem's Shooting a Puppy Story Strengthens Her VP Bid


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