(WASHINGTON) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Wednesday jumped into the 2024 presidential race — becoming the 12th Republican candidate on the list, with a pitch to voters focused on lessons he learned out West.
“We need new leadership for the changing economy. We need a leader who understands the real work that Americans do every day,” Burgum said at a campaign kickoff event in Fargo, North Dakota on Wednesday.
“Someone who’s worked alongside our farmers, our ranchers and our small business owners; someone who’s held jobs where you shower at the end of the day, not at the beginning,” he said.
To cheers, he said, “We need a leader who’s clearly focused on three things: economy, energy and national security.”
He tied energy to both of the other topics. “It takes energy to get things done in America. Clean, reliable, low-cost energy brings manufacturing back to the U.S. and reduces our supply chain risks,” Burgum said. “U.S. energy policy can not be separated from either our economy or from our national security. Energy policy directly underpins both, and we need to stop buying energy from our enemies and start selling energy to our friends and allies.”
And Burgum harkened back to his roots when discussing national security: “Growing up in a small town, you learn quickly: The enemy isn’t each other. Our enemies aren’t our neighbors down the street. Our enemies are countries that want to see our way of life destroyed. … We should all be fighting to unite the country against our common enemies like China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and the drug cartels.”
During his remarks, Burgum criticized President Joe Biden on various issues, including taxes, an “out of control border ignored by the White House” and economic struggles. However, neither Burgum nor other speakers ever referenced any other Republican candidates for president.
Burgum also blamed Biden for ongoing high inflation, saying, “Every small business owner and every family in our country is feeling the corrosive hidden tax on their lives driven by the Biden-induced inflation. Inflation is the worst; it hurts those the most who can afford it the least.”
Calling innovation the “driver of America,” Burgum also knocked the Biden administration for being “obsessed with creating mountains of federal red tape” and for actions that increased gas prices.
“Where we come from when something isn’t working, you stop and you try something new. That’s common sense. Joe Biden has got to go,” Burgum said to cheers and applause.
But he concluded his remarks on an optimistic note: “When we take the time to look, we can see that we are surrounded by the best of America. Working together, we will unlock the best of America in all of us.”
Burgum, a former software CEO elected in 2016, had teased his announcement with a video released on Monday.
Titled “Change,” Burgum’s teaser video shows him tracing his biographical roots: “I started a shoeshine business, worked at the grain elevator and as the chimney sweep, paid my way through college then earned an MBA from Stanford. I ignored those who said North Dakota was too small, too cold and too remote to build a world-class software company.”
A native of Arthur, North Dakota, Burgum founded Great Plains Software in 1983 and it was ultimately acquired by Microsoft in 2001; Burgum remained active in the company until 2007.
“I literally bet the farm to help turn a small startup into a billion dollar company in North Dakota. People thought I was crazy. A software company in North Dakota? But we ignored those who said North Dakota was too small, too cold, and too distant to build a world class software company. We did it anyway,” Burgum said during his campaign kickoff event.
Following Great Plains Software, Burgum went on to start the Kibourne Group, focused on real estate development, in 2006. He co-founded Arthurs Ventures, an investment firm, in 2008.
As a politician, Burgum successfully ran against the Republican Party’s preferred candidate in the 2016 gubernatorial primary and overwhelmingly won reelection in 2020. At his campaign kickoff on Wednesday, he said that he and his administration strengthened cybersecurity in the state, bolstered relations with tribal nations, made “record investments” in education and balanced the budget.
Still, he has acknowledged how his small-state background complicates his path on the national stage even though “there’s a value to being underestimated all the time,” he told The Forum newspaper in May.
At the time, he appealed to what he called the “silent majority” in the country who don’t sit on the extremes of any issue.
He seems set to approach the crowded GOP field, which includes former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others, as a small-town conservative focused on issues such as jobs, the economy and national security, while shrinking the government.
“Today, America is facing new challenges and how we respond will define our future,” he said in his teaser video. “We need new leadership for our changing economy. Innovation over regulation. Instead of shutting down American oil and gas, we should unleash energy production and start selling energy to our allies instead of buying it from our enemies. High taxes, red tape and inflation are choking every American.”
Burgum also invoked the power, he said, of a more moderate tone.
“In North Dakota, we’ve listened with respect and we talk things out,” he said in his video. “That’s how we can get America back on track. It worked in that tiny town where I grew up.”
Burgum is anticipated to travel to Iowa and New Hampshire, which will hold Republicans’ first two nominating contests early next year.
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