Who Is Kristi Noem, Really?

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem speaks at the North Carolina GOP convention in Greenville, N.C., June 5, 2021. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)
The first-term governor has positioned herself as a conservative hero ahead of a possible presidential run, but her record paints a more complicated picture.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE G overnor Kristi Noem has cultivated a certain image — that of defiant red-state outlaw bucking the diktats of nanny-state Fauci-ism.

Her profile, in this mold, rose considerably last year when her state of South Dakota emerged as the only one never to enter coronavirus lockdowns, defying the public-health bureaucracy’s warnings of catastrophe with the lowest unemployment rate in the nation alongside fewer deaths per capita than lockdown-happy New Jersey and New York. The governor quickly began to look like a real contender in the nascent battle for the next Republican presidential nod: In February, the Associated Press reported that she raised

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