The conservative faithful gathered in Dallas this past weekend for a mini Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Those that attended received just a tease into what the 2024 Republican presidential primary season will look like.

Among the speakers was South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who is considered a probable 2024 presidential contender. But Noem clearly was not there to play nice with other potential candidates.

While not mentioning Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by name, Noem accused the fellow Republican of “rewriting history” when it came to how they handled COVID-19 in their respective states.  

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GOP Gov. Track Records During COVID

DeSantis, Noem, and many other GOP governors were praised for questioning the effectiveness of COVID lockdowns while Democrat run states like New York and California remained in prolonged lockdowns with higher death rates

South Dakota was one of just seven states in the nation that was not subject to any shutdown orders. All seven were run by GOP governors.

In her speech, Noem attacked DeSantis – who is the presumed frontrunner in the absence of a Trump campaign: “Let’s talk about rewriting history. We’ve got Republican Governors across this country pretending they didn’t shut down their states, that they didn’t close their beaches, that they didn’t mandate masks, that they didn’t issue shelter-in-places.”

Noem continued, “Now I’m not picking fights with Republican governors. All I’m saying is that we need leaders with grit. That their first instinct is the right instinct.”

DeSantis issued a lockdown but lifted the order in April of 2020.

He issued work from home orders and did shutter Florida’s schools and college campuses also in March of 2020. He later told Miami’s CBS affiliate that, in hindsight he thought it was a mistake. Florida schools reopened in October of 2020. 

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Noem’s Less-Than-Perfect Conservative Bonafides

Noem is not without some scrutiny herself from many conservatives.

Back in March, Noem had the chance to sign “The Women’s Fairness in Sports Bill.” The bill would have banned transgender women and girls from playing on female sports teams. 

At first, Noem had said she supported the bill, but later sent it back to the legislature for changes that would exempt collegiate sports. Noem claimed that she sent it back for “style and form changes.”

Proponents said that such an exemption would water down the bill and that Noem was caving to the NCAA.

The bill languished on Noem’s desk and eventually died at the end of the legislative session. During a testy interview with Fox News Channel’s Tucker Carlson, Noem claimed that the style and form changes would prevent large sports entities like the NCAA from suing South Dakota.

Carlson accused Noem of caving to “big business” including the NCAA, chamber of commerce, and Amazon.

Noem ultimately signed an executive order banning transgender athletes from playing on female sports teams.

Protecting women’s sports looked very different in Florida.

In June, Gov. DeSantis signed into law the banning of transgender athletes playing on female sports teams. He made it very clear that he would not be intimidated by the NCAA or any other business or organization who might seek to deny tournaments or other kind of revenue to the state.

 “The price of having a tournament is I have to deny equal opportunity to hundreds of thousands of young girl and women athletes throughout Florida — I am much more willing to stand with the girls and to hell with these events.”

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The Road To 2024

In the world of presidential politics, 2024 might seem like a long way off, but plenty of strategists, both Republican and Democrat, will say that the 2024 campaign began the day after the 2020 campaign ended.

Also of note at CPAC, the usual presidential straw poll was taken. It wasn’t even close. Donald Trump came away with 70% of CPAC attendees saying he should be the nominee in 2024.

Bringing up the rear were Ron DeSantis at 21%, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R), former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) all at just 1% each. Trump’s numbers improved from the CPAC straw poll taken back in February when he was at 55%. 

Former President Trump brought down the house at CPAC on Sunday, where he gave a raucous speech where he lambasted the Biden administration for its immigration policy, trying to blame Republicans for defunding the police, and left-wing cancel culture.


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