At a Fargo events center packed with family, friends and neighbors, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum stressed his small-town roots, his success in building a multi-billion dollar software business on the Great Plains, governing a growing state, and his vision for an innovative America in announcing his bid for the White House.
The newly minted presidential candidate joins a crowded field of declared Republican presidential candidates, launching his campaign on the same day former Vice President Mike Pence kicked off his in Iowa.
“To unlock the best of America, we need a leader clearly focused on three things: The economy, energy, and national security. And that is why today I am officially announcing I am running for the president of the United States of America,” Burgum (pictured above) said to a roar of cheers.
The popular North Dakota governor is arguably among the least known of the Republicans who have thrown their hats into the ring. But Burgum said he was deemed a “long shot” and a “dark horse” when he first ran for governor in 2016. He crushed his Democrat opponents in both general elections, including a 40 percentage point victory in his 2020 re-election campaign.
He reminded his audience that people thought he was crazy when he started a software company in North Dakota, the “middle of nowhere” on the old big tech maps. But Burgum grew Great Plains Software into a major player, ranking as a top 5 IPO in America at the time it went public. Burgum ultimately sold the company to Microsoft for north of $1 billion.
More than anything, the lifelong North Dakota resident played up his rural American “common sense,” grounded in his childhood experiences in the tiny town of Arthur. How small-town is Burgum? A 40-year friend said he once asked Burgum whether he had ever experienced the sensation of a rodent crawling up his pant leg while he worked at a grain elevator. He had.
“Frankly, big cities could use more ideas and values from small towns right now,” the governor said.
But will that good-neighbor, small-town values approach play in a presidential campaign that is expected to be one of the nastiest in U.S. history?
The rhetorical wars already have begun among the two top Republican Party nomination contenders: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump. The latter is a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners campaigner; the latter is learning the art of national-scale political battle.
Burgum sounds like he wants to take the nice guy lane, like fellow GOP presidential primary contender Asa Hutchinson. But the former Arkansas governor is polling at a barely breathing 0.4 percent in the latest RealClearPolitics average of national Republican presidential nomination polls. Burgum isn’t even registering in most polls.
But the road to 2024 is long. As in baseball’s spring training, hope springs eternal in presidential campaign launches.
The 66-year-old Burgum says his resume makes a compelling case. He touted his tenure as governor, delivering — with the Republican-controlled Legislature — historic pension reforms, $1.5 billion in spending cuts, balanced budgets and the biggest tax cuts in state history.
“We know we can do the same for America,” the governor said.
During his campaign launch speech, Burgum said the economy must be the top priority. He laid out a long line of disastrous Biden administration policies, from the broken border to initiatives driving wallet-pinching inflation. The focus on the economy goes hand-in-hand with sound energy policy and strength in national security, he said.
“It takes energy to get things done in America,” he said. “U.S. energy policy cannot be separated from our economy or our national security. We need to stop buying energy from our enemies and start selling energy to our friends and allies.”
North Dakota’s oil and natural gas industry is a major player in the state economy, supporting more than 75,000 jobs and accounting for more than $3.2 billion annually.
Burgum argued that change in presidential leadership is critical to healing America. He insists a North Dakota governor with a Stanford MBA is the prescription for what ails the country.
“Where we come from, when something isn’t working you stop and try something new,” he said “That’s common sense. Joe Biden has to go.”
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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.