Apr 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Gov. Doug Burgum moves up Trump's VP ladder

Former US President Donald Trump, left, listens as Doug Burgum, governor of North Dakota, speaks during a Nevada Republican caucus night watch party

Former President Trump listens as North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, speaks during a Nevada Republican caucus night watch party in February. Photo: Ian Maule/Bloomberg

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is quickly moving up former President Trump's list of possible vice presidential picks because Trump's team believes he would be a safe choice who could attract moderate voters, four people familiar with the situation tell Axios.

Why it matters: Burgum is on a long list of VP contenders, but Trump's rising interest in the North Dakota governor has been clear in recent weeks — and reveals his latest thinking about how he thinks his running mate could help him with undecided voters.

Driving the news: Trump and his wife, Melania, hosted Burgum and his wife, Kathryn, at Mar-a-Lago for Easter Brunch, two people familiar with the matter told Axios.

  • In recent weeks, the sources said, Trump frequently has brought up Burgum's name in discussions with allies.
  • Spokespeople for Trump and Burgum declined to comment.

The intrigue: Two sources familiar with the Trump's thinking said he likes Burgum's measured demeanor and his gubernatorial experience — and sees Burgum as reliable and low-drama.

  • Those are similar to the traits Trump cited in 2016, when he tapped Mike Pence to be his running mate. At the time, Pence was Indiana's governor.
  • Pence's cautious manner often contrasted sharply with Trump's style.
  • Their relationship famously soured when Pence resisted Trump's call for the vice president to reject electoral ballots from several states Democrat Joe Biden had won in the 2020 election.

Zoom in: Burgum, 67, in his second term in deeply red North Dakota, is staunchly conservative businessman and is widely viewed as acceptable to establishment Republicans — a safe choice to put on the ticket.

  • He ran his long-shot presidential campaign on a platform of business acumen, energy, national security, and fiscal responsibility, and quickly endorsed Trump after dropping out.
  • Burgum aligns with Trump on many issues, including abortion. In an interview with NPR last fall, Burgum said abortion regulation should be left to the states — a stance that critics say is leading to dramatic differences in women's access to health care.
  • They share one personal touch point, which the sources said occasionally comes up in conversation between Trump and Burgum: Kathryn Burgum is recovering from alcoholism, an addiction that Trump's late brother Fred Trump Jr. also struggled with.

The big picture: Burgum quietly has been campaigning for Trump and making appearances on conservative and mainstream TV networks.

  • He most recently was in New Hampshire — where Nikki Haley received 43% of the vote in the GOP primary. Burgum went there at the Trump campaign's request, and visited the campaign's state headquarters among other stops.
  • Burgum also was a keynote speaker at a Virginia GOP Dinner in April, and was in Nevada ahead of the state's February caucus, urging Trump supporters to turn out to vote.

Between the lines: Shortly after Burgum dropped out of the race for president in December, Trump hinted that he planned to tap Burgum for a significant role in his administration if he were to win the election.

  • Trump noted that Burgum had been an early and vocal supporter of Trump's campaigns in 2016 and 2020.
  • Burgum first endorsed Trump in May 2016, noting their outsider status and business backgrounds.

Early in this campaign Trump blasted most other Republicans who were challenging him, held his fire when it came to Burgum, who was barely registering in GOP polls — and reluctant to criticize Trump.

  • "He was outstanding, but the traction is never easy, right?" Trump said after Burgum endorsed him ahead of the Iowa caucuses in January. "This guy is the most solid guy. There's no controversy whatsoever," 
  • "He's one of the best governors in our country," Trump said then. "And I hope that I'm going to be able to call on him to be a piece of the administration, a very important piece of the administration."

What's next: Trump will be hosting a major donor retreat to be attended by many of the top VP contenders, including Burgum, Politico first reported.

Go deeper