Gov. Doug Burgum announced Monday that he's dropping out of the 2024 GOP presidential primary, the Associated Press reported. The North Dakota Republican blamed the debate rules set up by the Republican National Committee as the impetus.
The governor, who is in his second term, was a long-shot pick from the beginning. Burgum jumped into the crowded field in June using millions of dollars from his personal coffers that he earned as a successful businessman in the software sector.
He ran on issues including the economy, energy, and national security. Burgum also positioned himself as a self-made man who grew up in a small town and led a rural state.
That pitch was not enough to move the needle for Burgum, however. The governor had participated in the first and second GOP debates but was unable to qualify for the third and fourth.
The RNC sets goals for fundraising and polling in order for a candidate to qualify to appear on the debate stage. Burgum slammed the committee for "nationalizing the primary process and taking the power of democracy away from the engaged, thoughtful citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire," he said in his parting statement.
"It is not their mission to reduce competition and restrict fresh ideas by ‘narrowing the field’ months before the Iowa caucuses or the first in the nation New Hampshire primary. These arbitrary criteria ensure advantages for candidates from major media markets on the coasts versus America’s Heartland," Burgum wrote.
"None of their debate criteria relate to the qualifications related to actually doing the job of the president," he added. Perhaps Burgum is correct, but those criteria do matter when it comes to getting elected.
He joins the growing list of other candidates who have dropped out, including Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and former Vice President Mike Pence. The growing divide between frontrunner former President Donald Trump and the rest of the pack is likely insurmountable at this late stage anyway.
It's not for lack of trying that Burgum didn't manage to gain any momentum. He was personally responsible for putting up the $12.5 million of the $15 million his campaign raised for the effort.
Burgum also tried an unconventional approach to meet his fundraising goals by offering a $20 Biden Relief Card for each $1 donation, both as a swipe at Biden and a means to entice donors. He was able to participate in the first two debates using this scheme, though some have questioned whether it was even legal.
For all of his struggles to get his campaign off the ground, former North Dakota Republican Gov. Ed Schafer offered Burgum praise for his "gutsy" approach. However, he conceded it was a fool's errand from the start, considering the state's low population and three electoral votes up for grabs.
"In the structure of a presidential race, it’s virtually impossible for a state like North Dakota to play in the game," Schafer, who is also a former U.S. agriculture secretary, said. He pointed out that fundraising in the state is a particular challenge for candidates.
Although Burgum has yet to announce his future plans now that he's dropped out of the presidential race, Schafer believes he will seek a third term as governor. Burgum has promised to meet with his family over the holidays "to consider future possibilities."
The field continues to narrow as Trump remains unstoppable in the polls. The final proof will come once the primary ballots have been cast, but it's increasingly difficult to imagine a scenario where Trump isn't the nominee, and each drop out is confirmation of that.