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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announces he's dropping out of the presidential race

Doug Burgum, governor of North Dakota, during an interview following the GOP primary presidential debate in September. He announced Monday he was dropping out of the race.
Bloomberg
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Bloomberg via Getty Images
Doug Burgum, governor of North Dakota, during an interview following the GOP primary presidential debate in September. He announced Monday he was dropping out of the race.

Republican Doug Burgum made it big as a successful businessman and investor, but switched careers when he became governor of North Dakota in 2016. He wanted to make a larger impact — not in the private sector, but politics. And he had his sights set on something even larger than the governor's mansion: the White House.

But that aspiration has come to an end.

Burgum announced Monday morning he would suspend his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination after he failed to qualify for the third Republican debate and would be unlikely to qualify for the fourth on Wednesday. While he did not provide a clear reason for the suspension of his campaign, Burgum did lodge criticisms at the RNC for its debate rules.

"While this primary process has shaken my trust in many media organizations and political party institutions, it has only strengthened my trust in America," Burgum said in a press release. "Our nation doesn't need to be perfect to be exceptional."

Burgum leaves the race in last place, polling nationally at a meager 0.7%

Prior to taking on the governorship, Burgum was at the helm of a successful software company, Great Plains Software, which he sold to Microsoft for $1.1 billion in stock in 2001. That, plus his real estate development firm and a software venture capital group, amassed him a large fortune.

So when he entered the North Dakota governor's race in 2016, Burgum built his campaign around an anti-establishment ethic, much like that of former President Donald Trump.

In a major upset, that tactic worked, propelling him to the highest position in the state. As governor, Burgum signed into law some of the strictest anti-transgender and abortion laws in the country, and unveiled an ambitious plan for his state to become carbon neutral by 2030.

But as a relatively unknown figure in national politics, the North Dakota native sought to make himself known as a leader with business savvy who, with his small town charm, conservative values and smarts, could turn the country around.

"People are yearning for leadership, and leadership to them does not mean a life spent as a career politician in North Dakota,"he said. "It means someone who's got the characteristics of integrity and honesty — someone you can trust and someone who's willing to take risks, someone who can take a leap and not know where they're going to land."

While individuals in the party establishment and even his own state had called on Burgum to drop out of the race, the governor was committed as late as October to continue running for the nomination. He said the people of Iowa and New Hampshire — two of the earliest states to vote in the primary calendar — should be the ones to call the shots, and not talking heads.

"They are the ones that are going to decide how the field gets narrowed, not some other group," he said.

It also helped that he had the money to sustain his campaign: He chipped in $12 million of his own money to fund his bid. And by the end of September, Burgum's campaign had spent nearly $13 million alone.

But the governor's private wealth was not enough to bring him towards the front of the candidate field.

It didn't help that Burgum didn't offer voters a clear vision for what policies he would bring to the White House. He had some concrete ideas, which he took from his time leading North Dakota. For example, he proposed that the state become carbon neutral by 2030, and said the entire country could do the same through carbon capture. But besides that, he offered no further details as to how that plan would work while still, as he wishes, backing fossil fuel.

The same could be said for his stances on other issues: He'd make a broad stance, but had not much else to say — whether it was on immigration, labor unions or social security.

That ambiguity extended all the way to his stance on Trump, as he refused to say what he thought about Trump's federal indictment charges.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeongyoon Han