Why Kristi Noem’s damage-control tour is probably doomed — and it isn’t her dead dog’s fault.

Kristi Noem’s damage-control tour is in full swing. It appears destined for the same fate as her late dog Cricket: dead in a gravel pit somewhere near Pierre.

But at Mar-a-Lago, even before the revelation about her dog, Noem had long ago been cast aside as a likely running mate, according to six people close to former President Donald Trump who, while not discounting Noem entirely, have for many weeks said she has almost no chance of being on the ticket. The Cricket saga was just the latest in one of the most spectacularly botched vice presidential contender rollouts in modern political history.

On Wednesday, days ahead of the release of her political memoir originally designed to boost her veepstakes campaign, Noem took to Sean Hannity to try to reset the disastrous political narrative surrounding her: that penning the anecdote about shooting her dog as an example of her ability to make difficult decisions had destroyed her vice presidential ambitions.

Noem will return to Trump’s turf in Palm Beach, Florida this weekend, addressing top-dollar donors with other prospective running mates at a luxury hotel. Two advisers to Noem, granted anonymity to speak freely, said they expect a Sunday show appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and additional excerpts from the book to also make news.

But it almost certainly won’t be enough to turn the tide of public opinion or, more importantly for Noem, the view of her inside Mar-a-Lago.

“She is of no use,” said Scott Jennings, a former President George W. Bush political adviser, comparing Noem to other running mate contenders, including North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) who would “have utility” on the Trump ticket.

“What does she bring?” Jennings said of Noem. “The possibility of weirdo drama. That’s it. She appeals to no constituency Trump doesn’t already have.”

For several years, Noem had appeared ascendant in Republican politics. She became one of the most vocal governors against Covid regulations, was a regular on the conservative television and conference circuit, hosted Trump for a 2020 Independence Day celebration and then gave him a miniature bust of Mount Rushmore with his face included.

But then came reports in conservative media of allegations that Noem was having an extramarital affair with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Noem denied it, saying at the time that “these rumors are total garbage and a disgusting lie.” Yet despite Noem being invited to meet with Trump at Mar-a-Lago as recently as February, and campaigning for him in Iowa earlier this year, inside Trump’s orbit, the rumors stuck.

Not only have Trump aides been concerned about the reports, Trump himself expressed qualms about them, too. While entertaining visitors at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, Trump made a joke about Noem’s “baggage,” according to a person with knowledge of the remarks and granted anonymity to speak freely.

In recent weeks — and in rapid succession — everything else came to knock down the negligible chances Noem had of getting tapped as running mate.

She was widely mocked after filming a bizarre infomercial-style video advertising for a Texas cosmetic dentistry that she said had given her a new “smile,” a promotion that raised ethics questions and led to a lawsuit against her.

Noem released new television advertisements featuring herself, spending millions of state dollars to dress up as a construction worker and state trooper — after filming previous spots pretending to be a plumber, dentist, electrician and welder — in an apparent bid to draw new residents to South Dakota.

Last weekend, Noem appeared on CNN, coming under fire after refusing to say whether abortion exceptions for rape and incest should be permitted, instead replying that she doesn’t “believe a tragedy should perpetuate another tragedy.” In South Dakota, all abortions are outlawed except to save a woman’s life.

“Are suburban women going to come and flock to Donald Trump? Probably not,” said David Urban, a former senior Trump campaign adviser. “Does Kristi Noem help that fact? Western governor, kind of a tough cowgirl, tough image. Not sure she’s the one that brings suburban women to the ballot box.”

After the anecdote about 14-month-old Cricket came out, Noem’s advisers confessed they were taken aback that it garnered such intense backlash.

“I didn’t think that was going to be the headline,” a person close to Noem who had read the book told POLITICO. The person was granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on her behalf.

But news of Noem’s execution and disposal of her dog has continued to play out for more than a week, with Noem making multiple comments defending her decision, including saying on Wednesday that the dog was “not a puppy,” but a threat to her family.

“I think Gov. Noem’s efforts have been sophomoric,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally. “Running ads may have seemed clever, but to someone as sophisticated as Trump, her strategies have been a bit too obvious.”

“Killing the dog and then writing about it,” Gingrich added, “ended any possibility of her being picked as VP.”

Noem is set to appear at the Trump and Republican National Committee donor retreat taking place this weekend in Palm Beach, where Trump will also give remarks, joined by more than a dozen other “special guests.”

Noem is scheduled to speak on Saturday morning in a “breakfast conversation” with Burgum that will be moderated by RNC Chair Michael Whatley, according to a copy of the agenda.

A number of other Republicans seen as Trump running mate contenders, including Rubio, Vance and Scott, are also expected to appear. The event is expected to draw around 400 major donors, according to a person familiar with the planning.

But damage already done may prove irreversible.

Conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who on his show this week railed about Noem being a “psychopath,” told POLITICO that sharing the dog anecdote showed “poor judgment on her part.”

“If she did that to impress Trump, she forgot he’s hurting himself in the suburbs where they tend not to murder dogs,” Erickson said.

But even before the Cricket fiasco, Noem “had too much baggage,” Erickson said — though he speculated that, if picked for the ticket, it would have been “shrugged off” by conservatives.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican from the nearby state of North Dakota, described the likelihood of Noem getting on the ticket like this: “It’s hard to imagine a universe where bragging about shooting your 14-month-old puppy increases your brand value.”

The MAGA movement, said Steve Bannon, a former top Trump adviser, “is looking for a perfect compliment to President Trump,” which includes “someone who can help him win and help him govern.”

“But shooting an innocent puppy,” he said, “may be a tad too ‘based’ for many.”

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