President Donald Trump visited Sioux Falls on Friday to stump for the state’s Republican candidate for governor and blast her opponent for supporting tax hikes.
Trump used his first time in South Dakota as a sitting president to speak at a closed-door campaign fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.
He applauded her work on last year’s Republican tax cut bill and criticized Democratic candidate for governor, Billie Sutton, for proposing a $128 million increase to the state sales tax.
“These tax hikes, they’re not positives,” Trump said.
Sutton’s campaign office defended the candidate’s record on taxes in an emailed statement.
“In the (South Dakota State) Senate, Billie Sutton has supported more than three dozen tax cuts for South Dakota families,” the statement said. “Billie knows South Dakotans are taxed enough and has a strong record of working across the aisle with Republicans and Gov. Daugaard to provide tax relief.”
It was the first visit to Sioux Falls by a sitting U.S. president since April 24, 2002, when Sen. George W. Bush attended a fundraiser for then Congressman John Thune and spoke to a crowd of 7,000 at the Sioux Falls Arena.
Beyond knocking Sutton, Trump took a similar tone critical of the media as he did during others stops this week in Billings, Montana, and Fargo, North Dakota.
He even asked South Dakota’s two U.S. Senators, Republicans Mike Rounds and John Thune, to draft policies for new libel laws.
“Hey Mike and John, could you do me a favor?” Trump said. “Create some libel laws that when people say stuff bad about you, you could sue them.”
The president has been defensive of his administration in response to an anonymous op-ed published in The New York Times and stories about an upcoming book from journalist Bob Woodward about his administration, including a part that describes staffers swiping documents from his desk.
“I would fire a person so fast if he ever touches my desk,” Trump said. “That’s the Resolute Desk.”
An estimated crowd of 500 to 600 people greeted the President when he arrived at the convention center, cheering and waving signs in support. Trump thanked them for supporting him during the 2016 election and touted the success of the U.S. economy since he took office.
“I was just shaking hands with some people from your area right now, and so many are saying thank you for saving America,” Trump said.
He also exchanged blows with President Barack Obama, who also spoke Friday at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was critical of President Trump.
“They said, ‘What did you think of his speech?'” Trump said. “I said, ‘Well I did start watching it, but sadly, I fell asleep.'”
The President’s inaugural visit to South Dakota lasted about two-and-a-half hours between arrival and take-off.
Shortly after Air Force One touched down on the tarmac at Joe Foss Field, the President greeted a cheering crowd. He stopped to shake hands with a line of South Dakota’s government officials, speaking briefly with Gov. Dennis Daugaard, Thune, Rounds and Dusty Johnson, a candidate for U.S. House of Representatives.
He made his way to a crowd gathered behind a barricade and shook hands and waved to supporters.
During the motorcade route between the South Dakota Air National Guard building and the convention center, people hoisted signs protesting the President’s tariff policies that have impacted trade with China, Canada, Mexico and other major economic partners.
Tickets to the Noem fundraiser started at $500, but donors could give as much as $23,000, including a $5,000 option that included a photo with President Trump.
Noem’s campaign declined to say how much money the candidate raised from the event, but Noem said in an emailed statement she was overwhelmed by the state’s support for the president.
“I’m a big believer that when you visit a state, your relationship with that state changes,” Noem said. “It’s more personal and that can’t be underestimated.”
Trump said it was important for him to visit South Dakota to support Noem in her race for governor.
“When you have people that are dedicated like Kristi, when you have people who care so much what they are doing, I think you have an obligation,” Trump said.
In addition to endorsing Noem, Trump also complimented the work of Thune and Rounds and offered support for Johnson in his House campaign.
The previous day, the president spoke at a rally in Billings, Montana, to support Matt Rosendale, a Republican running against the state’s Democratic Senator, Jon Tester.