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Doug Burgum hopes to stand out in crowded GOP presidential field

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is one of 13 candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
Get to know GOP presidential candidate Doug Burgum
Posted at 1:11 PM, Sep 20, 2023

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is one of 13 candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination.

He sat down with Scripps New political director Andrew Rafferty to talk about the race and the issues voters care about. 

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ANDREW RAFFERTY: Governor Burgum, thank you so much for joining Scripps News. 

GOV. DOUG BURGUM: Great to be here. Thank you, Andrew,  

RAFFERTY: I want to start with your campaign and what's been going on, we obviously have a big event in just over a week, the requirements to make the debate stage are a little bit higher than the first time around. It looks like you're right now not in that debate conversation. Do you plan to be on the stage? 

BURGUM: Yeah, we plan on being on the stage. But I would just say I think this is one of the things that's wrong with there's plenty of things wrong with how we elect presidents in this country. But one of the things were taking the power away from the early states, the early caucus and early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and trying to drive it towards a national polling, when national polls are driven by whatever happens to be in the news. And all we've gotten the news every day is indictments and impeachments. We're not talking about the things that really matter to voters. And so for a campaign like ours, where we have the least well known, but among the highest favorables in the states we are. There'll be people on that stage. And we're running ahead of them in Iowa, New Hampshire, but they're going to be on the debate stage. So that makes no makes no sense. But there'll be more polls this week. And we're still preparing. And if we don't make the debate stage, we'll be on the ballot in Iowa, New Hampshire, because we think that people should decide who the next president is not some national poll of 800 people. 

RAFFERTY: And I know you have made the case that you've came into the race with a very low name, ID you're sitting US governor, but North Dakota, maybe not the top of people's minds. There are other candidates though, thinking like Vivek Ramaswamy, also came in very low name, ID has had momentum, had a moment. Why do you think someone like him has had a little bit more traction than you have had so far? 

BURGUM: Well, I think it's pretty simple. The whole business models around cable television and cable news and social media, those are two big business models. They're all profit driven. And you get more clicks, if you got more controversy. So if you're just you know, saying whatever you want to say, and it doesn't necessarily have to be actually factual or not, or if you're involved in in conflict, conflict sells, divisiveness cells, but it really has nothing to do with the actual qualities of leadership. If you're going to lead a state, you're gonna lead the country, you have to be able to bring people together, not divide them. You have to be able to have the characteristics of leadership that we would look for. I mean, you wouldn't pick a superintendent for high school, you wouldn't pick your daughter's third grade soccer coach, and you wouldn't, you wouldn't pick a CEO as a company. I mean, 30 years in the private sector, we would never have a process that looks like a presidential made for TV political, political theatrics debate as a way to select someone for a leadership role. Particularly one, that is as important as the president united states.  

RAFFERTY: So you're saying the flame throwers, essentially, those who kind of invite controversy, or those who are successful, why do you think... 

BURGUM: Well they're successful in getting coverage? But not they're not successful when actually demonstrating to voters, that they're the ones that could actually lead the nation. So we're, we're out talking to voters in Iowa, New Hampshire on the ground, and the kinds of things that we're hearing from them or not even related, sometimes the questions that are being asked in the debate. 

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RAFFERTY: But you did bring up Donald Trump and how much he's impeached or his legal issues have been sort of dominating the campaign. I know that you're not open to talking about or are comfortable talking about it, you will have other things you want to message on, but for when it comes to Republican primary electorate, should they be considering all of these legal troubles surrounding Trump when they're deciding who to vote for? 

BURGUM: Well, I think the, I trust the Republican primary voters, and they have to take everything into consideration. And I would say, again, when we're out talking to voters, the you know, they're concerned about the things that we're talking about. They're not trapped in this seven by 24, industrial news complex that is just making bank every day talking about all the conflict. And this is why we need a wholesale change going forward in terms of leadership. And Joe Biden is now also in the whole indictment impeachment. And I'd say, you know, if the we're going to talk about an “i” word, we should be talking about innovation, because innovation is how this country is always move forward. But we're trapped talking about the past instead of talking about the future. 

RAFFERTY: We mentioned national security. That's one of the tenants that you're running on, we're going to see President Zelenskyy of Ukraine in the U.S. this week. He is going to be on Capitol Hill. Part of that is going to be trying to sell the Congress on the $24 billion of aid that President Biden is calling for Do you support that? Would you like to see Republicans in Congress support them? 

BURGUM: Well, what I'd like to see is that we actually understand that a a win for Putin is a win for China, because it seems like we're confused that somehow we can walk away and, and we've already turned Russia into China's discount gas station, these failed sanctions that the Biden administration have, allowing China to buy Russia's oil and gas at 20% off. I mean, every lobstermen in New Hampshire and a farmer in Iowa would love to be getting diesel at 20% off, particularly when we had, you know, WTI crack $91 a barrel today. And energy prices continue to skyrocket under the administration, the Biden administration, is trying to kill us energy. And so every dollar that goes to Ukraine or anywhere has to be accountable. But the people think this is expensive, if Russia has lost like half of their military capability, and we haven't sent one soldier, I mean, who would have if you'd have told me a couple of years ago that we could make that happen? This is this could be the bargain of the century, in terms of what we're doing. And then of course, we you know, NATO needs to step up and do their part. But NATO's is not sending soldiers. I mean, Ukraine is doing the job for all of NATO and for the United States, which is, you know, halfway to beating Russia. So I'd say fantastic.  

RAFFERTY: But just to clarify that 24 billion, do you encourage Republicans in Congress to support that ask from Joe Biden? 

BURGUM: I think that this is a thing where we got to have more accountability. I mean, I think the concerns they have is not necessarily because as I said, it could be a fiscally conservative thing to do and in a smart investment, but people are concerned about where the money is going. And is the money being accounted for. And I think there's got to be transparency about where every dollar is being spent.   

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RAFFERTY: And that is argument that has been made even from Mitch McConnell and those who are supportive, but just one last time that 24 billion, are you for it or against it? 

BURGUM: Well, I think there's been a lot the people in Congress that have read every line of that bill, because when I'm Governor, I don't comment on legislation I haven't read and you're asking me to comment on 24 billion, but I would say that we have an opportunity to support and beat Russia there where actually then doing something because we just wanted we just have North Korea meeting with Putin, China meeting with Putin, they're all teaming up against us. This is not three separate groups, North Korea, China and Russia, we're in a battle against all of them, and allowing Russia to walk away with a win here. Of course, the biggest issue is we would never even be in this war, if we actually would have had deterrence in place. And if we hadn't allowed all of Western Europe to become dependent on Russian energy. So the big lesson for America is we have to not just talk about, you know, bigger than a breadbox, smaller breadbox would you send more money, send less money? The real issue of leadership here is why are we in this war in the first place? And we're in the war because we had leadership under the Biden administration, the failed withdrawal from Afghanistan. This thing today? You know, with, we're gonna swap. I'll give you five prisoners. You give us five prisoners. That sounds fair. Oh, no. But by the way, we'll throw in $6 billion, so that you can continue building nuclear weapons to attack us. That we're giving 6 billion to Iran, the world's largest sponsor of terrorism, world's worst negotiation ever for hostages, and now that's going to make every American whether you're a college kid, a business leader, whoever you are traveling abroad, you're you've now we got a price on your head. I mean, you're a journalist. How about the Wall Street Journal? Trapped in Russia? Do you think Russia is going to take 1.2 billion, are they going to want more? Russia is probably going to want a better deal than Iran got. I mean, how do we -- rule one don't negotiate with terrorists. We're negotiating with terrorists. 

RAFFERTY: Another big plank of your agenda is Energy. Energy independence, specifically. There was a moment in that first debate where the moderator asked if the candidates on stage believe it that human made climate change, believe in that. It kind of got muddy, there wasn't really, there wasn’t a hand raised moment -- people started jumping in. But I want to give you the chance to clarify, do you believe that humans have caused climate change? 

BURGUM: Well, human activity is right at this moment causing increases in CO2. But over the lifetime of this planet, we've had big shifts in the amount of CO2 and whatever we've had, you know, in North Dakota, as recently as 12-to-15,000 years ago, was in an ice age, I mean, so global warming has been a good thing in the sense that now we're, you know, a huge energy and food producing state, because we've got a climate where where we can be able to do that. But if the real issue is if people are concerned about CO2, the answer is not, is not trying to regulate and make us energy poor and energy expensive and like put us at a disadvantage to all of our competitors, who are increasing their CO2, China the biggest polluter in the world. So the solution if CO2 is the problem that you think is the existential issue, solve it with innovation. Don't solve it with trying to kill U.S. energy industry, because when we do that, we raise the price for everybody in America, we outsource the source of energy to a competitor, China, who want to go all EVs there, they control 85% of the rare earth minerals in the world. And we're gonna buy our batteries from the world's biggest polluter?  

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RAFFERTY:  Another big issue that you know, Democrats and Joe Biden will be running on is reproductive rights. And the other day Donald Trump said that the bill that Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor, signed six-week abortion bill was a terrible mistake. You've signed it, abortion bill in North Dakota. What's your reaction to hearing the leader of the party Donald Trump talk about abortion in that way? 

BURGUM: Well, I think the message that we've been delivering on this is that we support Dobbs, North Dakota is a very pro life state. And when supporting Dobbs, we turn the power to the states and what worked in North Dakota is not going to work in New York. And this is one of the things the 10th Amendment. It very clearly says, states like New Hampshire, the original 13 colonies, they created the Federal Government. The states created the federal government, not the other way around. And the federal government shouldn't have a role in some of these issues. These should be decided by the states. And so I'm on the record saying I will not sign a federal abortion ban. I’ve said that from day one, because this is the state responsibility. 

RAFFERTY: And when you say ban, a lot of your colleagues who are running for president on the Republican side, have rallied around 15 weeks -- that seems like the week that has the most consensus, although there's not a ton of consensus. Is that something that you would support? If the Congress came to some sort of agreement and get passed a bill put it on your desk? 15 weeks? Would you be supportive? 

BURGUM: This again, is this these you're you're asking hypothetical questions that aren't going to happen? Because, you know, we haven't had that kind of a majority in the in the chambers to get it done. But then if you're saying OK, and this one incident, we're going to like we're going to ignore the Constitution. We're gonna ignore the 10th Amendment, this one institution in one incident, we're gonna say it's okay for the federal government to step in, because there's consensus Well, what if there's consensus about taking other states rights away? No, I'm for the Constitution. I'm for the 10th Amendment, and it can get settled. If people think that's the right that's the right window of time to get it done, then the states, then all, well guess all 50 states would end up at that level. 

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RAFFERTY: We've seen now, as of last week, how speaker Kevin McCarthy opened up an impeachment inquiry into the current president. And even though moderates who supported that say that, well, it's an opportunity to see if there's anything that is impeachable, it's an investigation to find out if that's the right course to go to. Are you supportive of that? 

BURGUM: We have to get to the bottom of this. And I think opening up an inquiry is different than actual impeachment actions, but opening up an inquiry. I mean, because when you have family members that are receiving millions of dollars that could be tied to influence peddling during the time that Joe Biden was the vice president. I mean, that's super disturbing. And I think, again, American part of the lack of trust that people have in government is they if you want to, if you want to become wealthy in this country, start a business work in the private sector, like I did for 30 years, then run for office. It's not about, ‘Oh, I'm going to become a politician and figure out a way to use my political office to enrich myself and my family.’ That's, that's the core of corruption. So yes, an inquiry is completely appropriate. 

RAFFERTY: And I want to wrap up here with a couple of questions based on your campaign. And you mentioned earlier that you're prepared to see this all the way through to the caucuses and here in New Hampshire, the primary. What factors are going into your decision making in terms of continuing this campaign? Even if let's say next week, you don't make the debate stage? 

BURGUM: Well, the factors are that we're, as I said earlier, we're already polling ahead of some of the people who are going to be on the debate stage in places like Iowa, New Hampshire. So why would I drop out of a race where I'm the head of people, that if you're in the if you're in the top five, in the early states are the ones that are supposed to thin the field? Why would you drop out now? I got more time between now and then the voting starts than when we launched this campaign, you know, back in June. And if we're getting positive feedback from the voters on the ground, and America's about having primary voters make the decision, it's not about Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘Let the people rule.’ He said, get out of the backroom deal where the party bosses decide, you know, who the candidates are, and if the party bosses are the ones that are deciding what the debate criteria is, they're actually the ones that are thinning the field. The voters get to decide. And so we believe in the people we believe in the voters, we believe in the caucus, the primary process, and we're going to keep driving through and give people an opportunity to say, hey, here's someone that we that we believe in, that we support. 

RAFFERTY: And before you go, governor, I gotta ask you, are you prepared to announce your retirement from basketball? We know you got injured you're hobbling around here because of playing basketball before the first debate. Are you still going to continue your career hooping it up? 

BURGUM: Well, first of all not hobbling. We got the we got the four wheel drive off road Fat Tire a nice scooter and I'm now faster my team couldn't keep shuffling before not like really fly. Wearing that but not ready to give it up. I love love team sports, love athletics have been gift gifted my hope my life to be able to be have the leg injury free for a great career. 

RAFFERTY: All right, governor, well stay safe on the campaign trail. Thank you so much for your time. 

BURGUM: Thank you, Andrew. 

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