Let's Talk About the GOP Debate and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum

AP Photo/Jack Dura

Post GOP debate, the morning buzz is all over Vivek Ramaswamy and how he had his "moment." But the moments that most captured my attention came from a little-known governor from North Dakota.

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Before Wednesday night's debate, the biggest news that Doug Burgum made was injuring his Achilles tendon in a pickup basketball game with his staff. This happened on Tuesday, and there was some question about whether he would make it to the debate stage at all. 

But made it he did, on crutches, and probably fortified with a painkiller or two. 

Not exactly a scenario for a stellar debate performance. But save for a rocky closing statement, which I attribute to those painkillers wearing off and exhaustion, for someone who had no footprint prior to this debate, Burgum definitely made himself one. Above the dueling between Chris Christie, Nikki Haley, and Vivek Ramaswamy, Burgum exuded calm and confidence; from his emphasis on his small-town beginnings to his matter-of-fact speaking style, he contrasted himself against the other candidates and came off as natural, likable, watchable, and most important, listenable.

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Besides being a two-term governor of one of our least populous states (779,261 as of the 2020 Census), Burgum has cut a sizeable swath for himself, mostly under the radar. Burgum epitomizes a hidden gold mine, and his life and career have proven this

Doug Burgum is the popular two-term governor of North Dakota who decided to run for president because North Dakota basically runs itself and, as a very rich man, he can afford to do so.*

Burgum began his rise to fame as a chimney sweep. No, seriously! In his senior year of college, he began a chimney-sweeping service, and a newspaper published photos of him hopping around rooftops in a tuxedo. You know who loved this? Stanford University! It admitted him to its MBA program. (Kids of today: Take note.)

Flush with knowledge of business, Burgum started a tech company in the 1980s called Great Plains Software, which Microsoft acquired in 2001 for $1.1 billion. (You can tell he’s “good at software” because check out his website: You scroll down and the website moves sideways. It’s like living on Mars!) Burgum worked for Microsoft until 2007 and remained friendly with bigwigs there, including Bill Gates, who would eventually donate to his gubernatorial campaign. 

Burgum developed a few more companies before entering public service: a real-estate development firm and a venture capital company. He decided to run for governor in 2016, using the "outsider" and business strategy that helped Donald Trump win the presidency. Unlike the former president, he rode a well-strategized four years into a second term.

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The Left despises him because he aligned with his party and Republican-majority legislature by signing a heartbeat bill into law, a restriction on transgender surgeries for minors, and tanking a bill that would have criminalized misgendering. 

But our hopes of weathering the rising tide of discrimination quickly came crashing down. Burgum signed HB 1254 (criminalizing medical care for trans youth) and HB 1522 (which prohibits policies on pronouns and requires separate accommodations for trans people). With these signatures, queer families realized they were no longer welcome in North Dakota. Some are moving to refuge states like Minnesota, but picking up stakes is not possible for everyone, setting up a gut-wrenching decision.

Simply put, children and families in North Dakota have been let down by Burgum. He slid from an independent governor exercising rational acceptance of queer people to a culture war champion aligned against them in just two short years, and it is pretty disconcerting to see a leader affected by misinformation in this way. 

It's a state of less than 800,000 people; less than a sliver of the population of Los Angeles (over three million). So how many queer families are being disenfranchised? Two?

Thanks to some of our RedState commenters during the Live Blog, we also discovered that Burgum could well be another Manchurian Candidate. Apparently, he was all-in on the COVID nonsense, with business closures and mask mandates in abundance.

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The measures include a State Health Officer order requiring face coverings to be worn in indoor businesses and indoor public settings as well as outdoor public settings where physical distancing isn’t possible. The order, signed by interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke, is effective from Nov. 14 through Dec. 13. It includes exceptions for children under age 5, individuals with a medical or mental health condition or disability that makes it unreasonable to wear a mask, and religious services.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this week that “adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns,” and that masks protect not only the people around the individual wearing the mask but also the mask wearer.

“The most effective weapon against COVID-19 is wearing a mask,” Wilke said. “This is a simple tool, but one that’s critical in helping protect our loved ones and slow the spread.”

Burgum signed an executive order today to implement the other mitigation measures.

So, should Burgum make it to the second debate cut, and after last night's performance it appears he will, his association with Dr. Mengele-wannabe Bill Gates and his less-than-conservative choices during the pandemic will be cannon fodder for the other candidates.

But what made Burgum a standout, prompting conservatives weary of the Trump-DeSantis-Ramaswamy slug fest to give him a second look, were responses that exemplified non-poll tested answers spoken with rock-solid conviction on matters that concern real Americans.

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His clarity on energy policy and his comment about trading OPEC for Sinopec resonated. However, conservative writer Daniel Horowitz called out Governor Burgum's actual record on energy within his state.

As I wrote on Wednesday night, Burgum gave the most clarity on why we do not need a federal abortion ban post-Roe.

One surprising response came from North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. Erring on the side of federalism, Burgum made the point that the pro-life community did not fight for the legislative groundwork for abortion's access and its limits to be returned to the states only to turn around and demand a federal ban.

And despite Fox News' bizarre decision to not serve questions about how each candidate would handle the crisis on the Southern border, Burgum had some salient tactics laid out for dealing with the Fentanyl crisis, and talked tough on military readiness and dealing with China's aggression towards Taiwan.

The Biden administration is a complete fail […] 

What we need to do is not have more meetings, not press releases. Something that would send a lot more of a message than a press release is actually harpoon missiles. We need anti-ship missiles on Taiwan.

The way that you have a war that never starts, which is the goal, the way you have peace through strength is that you actually have strength. You actually have deterrence.

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If Burgum continues to distinguish himself and is able to overcome the contradictions mentioned above, he may find himself moving to the front of the pack in this GOP horse race.

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