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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum considering presidential bid

“The number of competitors was in some ways noise, because some were good, some were bad, some were crap,” Burgum, who drove a shotgun in an SUV, said in an interview with NBC News – his first since his interest in a White House. the offer became known. “The signal was that the software was going to change the world. So I had the right signal.

Burgum’s likely candidacy follows DeSantis’ struggles to assert himself as the GOP’s strongest alternative to Trump. Undeterred by a field that could soon expand even further, Burgum began assembling a team and collecting video footage that could be used for advertisements the multi-millionaire said he was willing to self-fund.

“I’ve always had my own skin in the game,” Burgum said. “I always felt like I would never ask others to invest if I didn’t always invest.”

Although he avoided questions about his potential rivals, he made it clear that his message would be different from theirs and that he saw a path for himself by focusing less on culture war grievances and more on the economy, energy policy and national security.

“Everything else,” he said, “gets better if we fix those issues.”

And Burgum — who hands out medallions bearing the seal of North Dakota and a promise of gratitude and humility — consciously or unknowingly presented several stark contrasts to the combative DeSantis.

A road outside of Arthur, ND, on Wednesday. Tim Gruber for NBC News
Dinners at Kelly's Cafe inside the Arthur Mall on Wednesday in Arthur, ND, population 328.
Dinners at Kelly’s Cafe inside the Arthur Mall on Wednesday in Arthur, ND, population 328.Tim Gruber for NBC News
A jigsaw in progress at the Arthur Mall in Arthur, ND on Wednesday.
A jigsaw in progress at the Arthur Mall in Arthur, ND on Wednesday.Tim Gruber for NBC News

The two governors recently signed legislation banning abortion at six weeks and restricting the rights of transgender people in their states. And both have veto-proof GOP majorities in their legislatures. But Burgum doesn’t typically emphasize those topics, while DeSantis has championed a bill banning the teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms through third grade – legislation that critics have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

“Cultural issues can be handled by states, and they can be handled by school boards, local libraries, and city boards,” Burgum said. “And there are certain things that the federal government needs to focus on, and that’s what our campaign will be about.”

At another point, Burgum recalled his defense of masks at the height of the pandemic as a plea for empathy at a time when the country was “turned into a bit of neighbors fighting neighbors.” (DeSantis once mocked students for wearing masks at a press conference.) Burgum also bragged about North Dakota’s growing young population — a testament, he said. he says, young families finding opportunities in the state. (DeSantis often brags that Florida is the hot weather destination of choice for older retirees.)

Doug Burgum on the rooftop terrace of the Fargo development company he founded.
Doug Burgum on the rooftop terrace of the Fargo development company he founded.Tim Gruber for NBC News

Burgum prefers fashionable dark jeans to casual pants and speaks passionately about architecture and urban planning. From the roof terrace of the Fargo development company he founded, he offered a virtual tour of the city’s downtown, showing where power lines had been moved underground and how parking areas could be built to make better use of commercial and residential spaces.

As he rolled between Fargo and Arthur, he described himself as the kind of traditional pro-business, anti-regulation Republican who thrived more before Trump’s takeover of the party. Even so, he resisted any urge to make more explicit distinctions and for nearly four hours never mentioned Trump.

“You wouldn’t enter a market as someone with 0% market share and start criticizing others,” he said, acknowledging his lack of name recognition. “You basically have to explain why people should pay attention, why people should invest time in understanding what the alternatives are.”

‘What is software?’

Arthur, 328, is just over a half-hour drive from Fargo and takes up just 1.5 dusty square miles.

The de Burgum family has controlled the grain elevator that has dominated Main Street since Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. It remains, after all these years, the centerpiece of a portfolio of businesses ranging from the region’s first electric utility to the modern advent of Big Green Egg grills and smokers.

Early on, Burgum shared his family’s entrepreneurial spirit while asserting his independence. Drawn to the mystique of the outdoors, he spent two months hitchhiking to and around Alaska during the summer after his sophomore year at the state of North Dakota.

In his senior year, as energy costs rose, he borrowed a friend’s red 1947 Chevy pickup truck and started a chimney sweeping service that brought in at least $40 per job. A local newspaper published photos of him dashing across the rooftops in a top hat and tuxedo, looking like Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins.” Impressed by his restlessness, one of Burgum’s professors encouraged him to apply to business schools.

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