Burgum eyes second Republican primary debate

Doug Burgum speaking about House Bill 1279 to North Dakota Legislators | Courtesy: State of North Dakota
Doug Burgum speaking about House Bill 1279 to North Dakota Legislators | Courtesy: State of North Dakota

(Bismarck, ND) -- North Dakota governor Doug Burgum is back on the campaign trail in New Hampshire this week, attempting to leverage his first debate performance to gain voter support.

Burgum suffered a full tear of his Achilles tendon playing basketball the night before the first Republican primary debate in Milwaukee but appeared without crutches on the debate stage, using only a walking boot.  Still the presidential hopeful managed to stand for all two hours of the debate and more than an hour of reporter interviews afterward.

Speaking with The Farmer in Milwaukee after the debate, Burgum quipped, “Great to have a chance to be playing some ball over at Marquette.  With that great basketball tradition, I thought this would be a great way to unwind.  As I joked tonight, with everybody back home saying break a leg, the old well wish when you go on stage, I guess I took them too literally.”

Burgum’s ability to attend the debate was in doubt until just hours before the event.  “We had some things that had to happen (Wednesday),” said Burgum.  “Of course we are here in the arena where the Milwaukee Bucks play, and I was able to get in to see the Bucks orthopedic surgeon and he supports them and the Milwaukee Brewers, so he’s seen a few Achilles tendons, and after the ER last night I was hoping that it was just a partial tear, but after about one minute he said, no you’ve blown the whole thing.”

According to CNN, Burgum spoke for 7 minutes and 50 seconds at the debate, ranking him 7th of the 8 presenters, ahead of only Asa Hutchinson.  Former Vice President Mike Pence spoke for 12 minutes and 26 seconds, leading the field.  Burgum’s time on the microphone was within 30 seconds of Nikki Haley (8:20) and Tim Scott (7:57).  

Burgum said of his opportunities, “The game plan was, when you’re in the number 8 spot you know that they’re going to be putting more questions toward other candidates and so we ended up in the final analysis, very close to the same amount of talking time as everybody else on stage, so we’ll take that as a win.  And we had a chance to introduce ourselves to the American public, talking about the issues that we know matter to everybody, and that’s the economy, energy policy, and national security.  If I had a wish, it would be that we had more time to talk about all the great things happening in North Dakota because we’ve got such a great story to tell, in how we’ve cut red tape, lowered taxes, and passed the biggest tax cuts in history this spring.  We’ve got the highest GDP of any Republican-led state in the nation right now.  It’s $24,000 per person higher in North Dakota than a place like Florida, just look it up on a chart.”

Three times Burgum referred to his small town roots, and while it may have seemed an intentional play to voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, Burgum said it’s a message that can appeal to the entire country.  

“There’s a lot of commonality around small towns all across this whole country.  Neighbors helping neighbors, people looking out for one another.  You don’t have some of these problems you’re seeing in some of these large metros, and I was very sincere about that.  Maybe it’s time that we turn to some of that small town common sense, ‘get er done’ kind of attitude as opposed to needing a government program to fix everything.  Get back to some basics around freedom and liberty and things we’re doing in North Dakota.  But certainly, Iowa and New Hampshire are 2 very rural states and we’re having a blast on the ground in those two states.”

Burgum said if he would have had more time to get into a topic, he would have spoken more about the situations in Ukraine and Taiwan, two areas that are at risk of foreign invasion from Russia and China.  He says if those invasions happen, Americans can trace it back to the same kind of ineffective leadership that stumbled through a flawed military withdrawal from Afghanistan.  

As of press time, Burgum has yet to see a major bump in the polls after his debate performance.  Three national polls have been released that surveyed likely Republican voters in the days since the debate.  In two of the polls, Burgum received 0% statistical support.  In one poll he received 1%.

“We were the least well-known going into the debate, so I think we accomplished what we were trying to do,” said campaign spokesperson Lance Trover.  “I think I saw on the website fivethirtyeight.com that he tripled the number of voters that are considering voting for him.  His name ID went from 80% of people not having an opinion to just 25.  And we got over a million impressions on social media on that day which is a very strong showing because he was the least well known going into that day.  When he was talking, he was talking about the issues you keep hearing him talk about, the economy, energy, national security and the threat China poses to our nation so I think he connected with a lot of people out there.” 

The second GOP debate is scheduled for September 27th at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.  

To qualify, candidates need to meet higher fundraising and polling numbers than they did in the first debate.

The second debate will require 50 thousand individual donations.  Trover tells the Farmer that Burgum has already hit that threshold.  

Politico.com reports that there are two ways candidates can meet the polling criteria.  Candidates can either hit 3% in two national polls, or reach three-percent in one national poll and two polls in the primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.

To date, Burgum’s best showing, state-wise, was in a University of New Hampshire poll conducted in mid-July where Burgum polled at 6% support, tying him for fourth place.  

At press time, Burgum had yet to reach 3% in any national poll, but according to fivethirtyeight.com, he has hit 3% in five Iowa polls and four New Hampshire polls.  This means that unless the polling requirements change, just one national poll at 3% would check the final box for Burgum.

The 67-year old North Dakota governor says he’s not surprised that national polling lags his efforts in Iowa and New Hampshire, as most of the campaign’s time and money has been spent in the primary states.  

“If Dot’s Pretzels were only launched in two states, in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then you asked somebody in Oklahoma what they thought of Dot’s Pretzels, they’d say they’ve never heard of them.  Well, that’s where we were before tonight.  A lot of people hadn’t heard of us, but we were tied for fourth in New Hampshire a couple weeks ago, and half the people that answered that survey had still never heard of us.  So, we know if we get the word out about who we are, and the issues we’re talking about, we’re going to continue to see our numbers rise.”

Former President Donald Trump, citing his lead in the polls, did not appear in the first debate.  He has not yet officially announced his intentions for September 27th but has previously stated he has no reason to attend any of the primary debates.  

Will Doug Burgum be there?  He answered the question Wednesday night quickly and definitively.  “100% confident we’re going to be there.  Absolutely.  And hopefully when I’m there a month from now I’ll be standing on two legs instead of one.”