TRUMP’S NEXT VP? Doug Burgum’s Primary Run was Short-Lived. Now He’s Everywhere with Trump.

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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum had a rather unremarkable run for president. He made it to the Republican debate stage thanks to a fundraising gimmick that delivered donors gift cards. His biggest headline may have come after he tore his Achilles during a pickup basketball game the night before the first debate. And the former tech entrepreneur ultimately suspended his campaign before the Iowa caucuses.

These days, Burgum is hard to miss on the campaign trail as a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. Last week, he flew with the former president to New Jersey, where he warmed up the crowd at a rally on the Jersey Shore. Days later, he stood in a park outside a Manhattan courthouse defending Trump in his New York hush money case, before later that evening attending a fundraiser on behalf of him. Amid those appearances and countless TV hits, Trump allies have discussed Burgum as a potential vice-presidential candidate, even as they caution that the list remains long.

At first glance, the two men are an unlikely pairing. Trump grew up in Queens. Burgum grew up in a small town in North Dakota. Trump consistently makes headlines, while Burgum struggled to gain attention during the primary. But they also share similarities. Both are wealthy businessmen. Both were first elected to office in 2016. And both have loved ones who have dealt with addiction; Trump has spoken of his late brother’s alcoholism, and Burgum’s wife, Kathryn, has been in recovery from alcoholism for more than two decades. While Trump and Burgum had a professional relationship during the former president’s time in the White House, people familiar with their dynamic say it’s gotten more personal in recent months, as Burgum and his wife have joined Trump on his airplane and at Mar-a-Lago. Trump has even suggested that he would want the governor in a second administration.

“I’ve talked with President Trump about [Burgum], and I know that he likes him a lot and certainly I think he’s going to be a part of this administration. Now what role? We don’t know yet. But I think it will be an important role, and I think he’ll be a real asset to the Trump administration,” said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who supported Burgum until he suspended his campaign and has since endorsed Trump.

Both men have something to gain if Trump picks Burgum as his running mate. Similar to Trump’s first vice-presidential pick, Mike Pence, Burgum has gubernatorial experience and has a more reserved demeanor that wouldn’t overshadow Trump, who revels in the spotlight, according to Republican aides and strategists. He is also a popular vice-presidential choice among Senate Republicans, according to a senior GOP Senate aide, in part because they believe Burgum is generally noncontroversial and would be a personality counterbalance to Trump. Meanwhile, his tenure as governor ends in December. A spokesperson for Burgum declined to comment for this article.

“Burgum looks the part: He’s tall, he’s handsome, he’s wealthy, and he’s a conservative,” said Scott Reed, a longtime GOP strategist. “His investment in this race is paying off. He’s handled himself well, [and] he’s made no mistakes.”

Burgum is also independently wealthy and could serve as a huge asset to the Trump campaign – both in his potential investment as a vice-presidential candidate and his ability to raise money from wealthy donors in the tech sector. He made his fortune building Great Plains Software in his home state – mortgaging part of the farmland that his father had left him to invest $250,000 in the company. He led the company until it was acquired by Microsoft for $1.1 billion in 2001, and he remained at Microsoft as senior vice president until 2007.

Forbes estimates that Burgum’s net worth is at least $100 million. He was willing to invest a significant amount of money in his own presidential campaign, and some aides say he may be able to help Trump narrow President Biden’s cash advantage if he is on the ticket.

Biden faced only nominal opposition in the primary, and he was able to get a much earlier start fundraising in conjunction with state and Democratic Party committees. His campaign announced in April that it raised more than $90 million in March and that the broader Biden effort had about $192 million in cash at the end of March – more than double what their Republican opponents are holding. In recent months, Trump has picked up his fundraising pace as he raises money with the Republican National Committee, but the latest campaign finance reports show the tremendous strain that his legal bills are putting on his political committees.

In closed-door remarks and onstage at campaign rallies, Trump has praised Burgum’s campaign performance despite his failed presidential bid, according to audio from a private meeting and Trump’s public remarks, and he regularly mentions the governor’s wealth – a point of admiration for the former president.

“It was just sort of a large group, and sometimes you need controversy to get yourself known,” Trump said of Burgum’s campaign effort at last weekend’s rally. “And … he’s not a controversial person. He’s a very smart person. He’s an outstanding person.”

“Get ready for something, okay? Just get ready,” Trump later added, appearing to allude to a potential future role for Burgum if he wins a second term.

In his public and private remarks on behalf of Trump, Burgum has focused much of his attention on energy policy, saying the former president will “make America more energy independent” but without giving many specifics. He’s also echoed some of Trump’s language, telling New Jersey rally attendees, “We know how all of you are going to vote this November, but to win this election so big that it can’t be rigged, you’ve got to bring your friends.” Throughout his primary campaign, the governor steered clear of criticizing Trump and avoided answering questions about Trump’s role in inciting the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He has also said Biden won the 2020 election, even as Trump has falsely claimed the election was rigged.

One potentially complicating factor for Burgum is that he signed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country, and Democrats would be certain to highlight that law as they try to capitalize on the broad unpopularity of the strictest abortion restrictions. North Dakota’s near-total ban permitted abortions in cases of rape and incest but only in the first six weeks of pregnancy. It also made an exception in the case of a “serious” physical health risk or to prevent death of the patient. (Burgum said in an interview last year with The Washington Post that he’d leave abortion laws up to the states; Trump recently gave a similar statement on the matter.)

Burgum’s next stop is Vermont, where he is scheduled to speak at the state party’s convention Saturday. Next week, he will appear at the North Carolina GOP’s convention. In addition to appearing in court and on the trail, he has attended several fundraisers for Trump, including a recent one hosted by hedge fund billionaire John Paulson.

One Trump ally, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about their relationship, said it was Burgum’s debate performances and his understanding of energy policy that impressed the former president. That person described the governor as a workhorse and said his business background has helped bring in donors and prospective donors to the campaign.

Burgum first endorsed Trump in May 2016, saying in a statement, “Trump has effectively secured the Republican nomination for president, and it is time for Republicans to support Donald Trump’s candidacy,” and noting that he “brought a record number of new voters into the Republican primary process.” At the time, Burgum was running in the North Dakota’s Republican gubernatorial primary as a businessman and as an outsider against the GOP convention’s endorsed nominee.

He backed Trump again in 202o, campaigning for him on caucus day in Iowa. Shortly after Burgum suspended his campaign in early December, Trump called into a North Dakota radio show to praise him and tease a future role for him in a possible second presidency.

Joining Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) in a phone interview, Trump called Burgum an “outstanding man” and “terrific guy.”

He added: “We have a thing called a Cabinet, and there are a lot of great positions in that Cabinet – bigger than anything that you have in the private sector in the true sense.” Asked if any other former opponents might be part of his administration, Trump appeared to hang up.

Burgum, in turn, was the first mainstream primary opponent to endorse Trump, doing so on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. Trump introduced him as a businessman, noting he made a “tremendous amount of money.”

“Today, I’m here to do something that none of the other presidential primary candidates has done, and that’s endorse Donald J. Trump,” Burgum said to applause.

Shortly after Trump won the Iowa caucuses, Burgum flew with him to New Hampshire and has mentioned that trip several times in recent months while campaigning.

North Dakota Democrats have criticized Burgum, who is not seeking a third term as governor, for the pair’s closeness.

Joel Heitkamp, a radio talk show host and former Democratic state senator who has called on Burgum to resign “because he’s not doing the job,” surmised that Burgum would “wash Donald Trump’s car” if Trump asked, adding: “He’s at that point in his life. He would do anything for this man.”

Heitkamp pointed to a December 2022 interview when he probed Burgum on whether he would be Trump’s running mate in two years if asked. The governor simply replied “No.” A person close to Burgum said he was strongly considering his own presidential bid at that time.

When asked in an interview this month by CNN’s Jake Tapper on whether he’d be Trump’s running mate, he dismissed the question.

“Any of that right now is all speculation,” he said. “I think the shortlist needs to be modified. Maybe there’s a list of 50. If I’m on it, who would know? But it’s not why I’m out supporting the president right now.”

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(C) Washington Post


1 COMMENT

  1. Why would the Washington Compost be pushing this guy to be the VP? The Compost must have some dirt on him.

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