Port: Doug Burgum's presidential campaign is polling about where you'd expect it to be

The very, very early polling numbers aren't good. But they're not all bad, either.

Gov. Doug Burgum talks with North Dakotans at the State Capitol.
Forum News Service file photo

MINOT, N.D. — Gov. Doug Burgum's campaign for president hasn't really started yet.

Not officially anyway — that's almost certainly coming on June 7 , though, as I was the first to report, he was already making trips to Iowa back in March. So it's not surprising at all that he'd be a relative non-entity in national polling seeking to measure the race for the Republican nomination.

Burgum, to the extent that he's showing up in the national polls, is about where you'd expect him to be.

Still, Burgum has been included in a couple of recent national polls. A CNN-sponsored survey, conducted by SSRS Research from May 17 to 20 with 476 registered voters, pinned support for North Dakota's governor at just 1%.

This isn't much (Donald Trump led in the poll with 53%, Gov. Ron DeSantis was a distant second at 26%), but it was good enough to tie Burgum with Vivek Ramaswamy, and place him not all that far behind Sen. Tim Scott (2%), former Ambassador Nikki Haley (6%), and former Vice President Mike Pence (6%).


Unfortunately, for the Burgum campaign, a second national survey, from the McLaughlin Group, conducted May 17-24 among 446 likely voters, measured zero support for the governor.

There is no question that Burgum is a long shot. A very long shot. And, based on everything we're learning about his approach to this campaign so far, which admittedly isn't very much, he seems intent on trying to steer the GOP away from the culture war stuff and toward more traditional political issues.

That's a long shot bet by a long shot candidate. Like it or not, the GOP, which is to say the people who will show up in state primaries to vote for the party's 2024 candidate, are obsessed with the sort of inward-looking grievance politics that Trump and DeSantis, the frontrunners, represent.

It's their race to lose — really, it's Trump's race — and the numbers prove it.

Haley and Scott are two candidates with much more substantial national profiles than Burgum has, who are also, to one degree or another, trying to steer a course away from the culture wars.

They're not polling much better than Burgum is.

Which is more a commentary on the state of the Republican electorate than a measure of the quality of these candidates.

Still, I'm not sure Burgum is deserving of some of the dismissive reactions his campaign is eliciting. The national pundits are having a laugh at the idea that someone from North Dakota could run a competitive national campaign and, well, some local pundits are too.


There is an inferiority complex that runs wide and deep through our state's psyche, unfortunately. But I digress.

That's a topic for a whole different sort of column.

For Burgum, being something of a blank slate for the national imagination could be turned into an advantage. If there really is an appetite among primary voters for a back-to-basics, bring-back-the-normal campaign, then maybe Burgum, who lacks the baggage of the more recognizable candidates, can catch fire.

Probably not. But that's the bet Burgum is placing.

By the way, Burgum is going to have to get better at a lot of things to make this campaign works. The meandering, stream-of-consciousness speeches he's prone to deliver to North Dakota audiences will need to be refined and repackaged into something more direct for national voters.

His endearingly nerdy demeanor may play well in a state where a personal connection between voters and candidates is still paramount, but it will have to be sharpened to get traction with a more disconnected electorate.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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