Port: Is North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum exploring a campaign for president?

Burgum is in Iowa holding a "meet and greet" with the local Republican party. Is he thinking of a 2024 bid for the presidency?

Gov. Doug Burgum poses with Shiloh students before a game against Beulah in the North Dakota Class B state high school boys basketball tournament semifinals at the Bismarck Event Center on March 16, 2023.
David Samson / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — The 2024 campaign season is still a long way away.

Or is it? Republicans already have two candidates who are in the race officially, and more who are clearly interested in a run, though haven't made it official yet.

National headlines have been dominated by familiar Republican names who are either already running for president, like Donald Trump and Nikki Haley, and who are expected to campaign, like Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence.

But what about North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum?

One of the hallmarks of an exploratory campaign for the presidency is a trip to Iowa, which for Republicans at least , is still the first state to vote in the national candidate selection process. And guess who has a trip to Iowa planned?


According to the Twitter account for the Story County GOP, Burgum was in Iowa holding a "meet and greet" in Nevada (that's the name of the city) on Friday evening, March 24.

This, on its own, isn't exactly a smoking gun proving that Burgum is exploring a campaign for the presidency. It's not unusual for Republicans in one state to invite Republicans from other states for fundraisers and speeches, though any time a governor starts kissing babies in Iowa, speculation is going to fly.

The fact that Burgum has also been a bit more present in the national news media also is not necessarily indicative of anything.

But there's more I can tell you.

A source in Iowa says that someone is polling there for a candidate that sounds an awful lot like Doug Burgum.

"I just completed an opinion poll by an agency clearly hired to see if the North Dakota governor can run for president," my source tells me. "It wasn’t hard to figure out who was paying when they are running potential ads by you: mortgaged the family farm after graduating college to invest in a small tech startup."

Contrast that with the biography provided on the Story County GOP's website for the "meet and greet" event in Nevada : "Firmly rooted with gratitude and perseverance, Burgum literally 'bet the family farm' for the seed capital for Great Plains Software, then a very small startup company in the fledgling computer software industry," it begins.

I attempted to contact Burgum Friday evening by text and phone, but didn't receive a response. Perhaps because he was still busy at the event in Nevada?


I was able to reach Congressman Kelly Armstrong, working a long shot angle that he might know something and be willing to gossip. He was delayed in the Minneapolis airport, and said he had no idea Burgum was in Iowa. But he had some words of encouragement for his fellow North Dakotan. "Doug will do what he thinks is best," Armstrong told me. "I watched him go to coffee shops during his 2016 campaign and talk to people who were not his supporters when they walked in the room and they left that room supporters. That's how he got elected."

Again, to be clear, this does not mean that Burgum is launching a national campaign.

It does sure seem like he's thinking about it, though.

On paper, the timing would make sense. Burgum's current term, his second, expires next year. He cruised to an easy re-election in 2020 with over 65% of the vote. He consistently ranks among the most popular governors in the country . He's independently wealthy, which means he has the resources to operate a sophisticated campaign.

"Doug Burgum's campaign launch did a great job of laying out his resume as a competent leader, but sadly that's not going to be enough to separate him from the GOP pack."
Dave Weigel, a political reporter for Semafor, joins this episode of Plain Talk, and co-host Ben Hanson reports on Burgum's campaign launch event.
Gov. Doug Burgum is running for president as an alternative to the culture war candidates, but his party is on the cusp of being taken over by that faction.

Still, his national name recognition isn't great, and unlike someone like DeSantis, he's from one of the least populous states in the union, commanding just three Electoral College votes.

More interesting, if Burgum is seriously considering a national campaign, is what this might portend for some of the bills heading to his desk for signature. Case in point, last session, Burgum vetoed a bill seeking to regulate the participation of transgender students in high school sports. This session has seen a number of cultural war bills sent to his desk, including, most recently, one regulating pronoun use.

It's perhaps more likely than not that a Doug Burgum who isn't running for national office would veto that bill. But one who is?

You have to sign a bill like that, right? Given the degree to which populist culture war issues now dominate national GOP politics?

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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