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N.D. Gov. Burgum has surfaced as a top contender to be Trump’s running mate


Aid to Ukraine is one of the many issues dividing President Biden and former President Donald Trump. Biden strongly advocates continued support while Trump suggests he would trim military aid for Ukraine if elected in November. But Trump also says he will stand strong against Russia, something echoed by one of his potential picks for Vice President this weekend. This is North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum on "Fox News Sunday."


DOUG BURGUM: Trump was tough on Russia, and he understood that we could not have all of Western Europe, all our allies, dependent on Russian energy. We turned Russia into China's discount gas station.

MARTIN: Burgum is one of about 10 names on lists of possible Trump running mates? We've asked Mark Jendrysik to help us understand why. Mark Jendrysik is a professor of political science at the University of North Dakota, and he's with us now from Grand Forks, N.D. Good morning.

MARK JENDRYSIK: Good morning.

MARTIN: OK, so brief bio here - Doug Burgum, born and raised in North Dakota, got an MBA from Stanford Business School, then went home, started a software company, sold it to Microsoft, made a ton of money, first elected for governor the same year as Trump became president and, unlike former President Trump, was reelected in 2020. What's he known for as governor?

JENDRYSIK: Well, I think he's governed as a fairly standard conservative Republican. He certainly campaigned as a more business-friendly Republican. And I think he's generally governed in - you know, in his eight years in the governorship as a fairly conservative, standard Republican. You know, he signed the - basically signed the abortion ban here in North Dakota. And - but he's retained popularity. He's very popular. He could have easily won a third term this year if he had chosen to run.

MARTIN: Any signature initiatives there that people know him for?

JENDRYSIK: He certainly, you know, made the energy sector one of his key areas. North Dakota produces a lot of coal and oil and natural gas, and he's really pushed hard on that sector. I think he's also tried hard to, you know, be a pro-economic-development governor. The state has, you know, very low unemployment and a shortage of people, and he's tried very hard to address that problem as well.

MARTIN: So early in the campaign, Burgum was among the candidates challenging Trump for the nomination. Was there any difference with his views that he articulated, any daylight between them that he sought to exploit?

JENDRYSIK: I think at first, yes. In his initial announcements, I think he tried to be Trump without the drama. But certainly after he shut down his campaign, he's moved much much closer to Donald Trump.

MARTIN: So why would Trump lean into Burgum? I mean, we know that Trump is very attracted to very wealthy people, which Doug Burgum is, but other than that, what do you think the appeal is?

JENDRYSIK: Well, I think Burgum has, over the last few months, again, moved his - you know, his views much closer to Trump. I saw yesterday on Fox, you know, one of the headings was, you know, how I changed my mind on Trump for Burgum. Another reason is that he's - you know, he's a good-looking guy. He's personable. I think he's charismatic. And I think Trump responds to that sort of thing. And I think he has an interesting story to tell of success.

MARTIN: So would his nomination bring any particular constituency to Trump? I'm thinking of former Vice President Mike Pence who helped court the evangelical vote for Trump in 2016. I mean, I can tell you just from sort of talking to voters myself, when I ask people, OK, well, what was the appeal to you? And they say, oh, well, I - from people from that particular background, they would be like, well, I voted for Mike Pence. But what about Doug Burgum? Is there somebody who would - people would look at him and say, well, I voted for Doug Burgum?

JENDRYSIK: Yeah, that's a really interesting question. I'm not sure who he brings to the campaign. You know, and I'm not sure what constituency would be, you know, drawn to the campaign based on Governor Burgum. You know, certainly, he's a personable guy. He has a compelling story of success. But I'm not certain what constituency within the Republican Party he particularly appeals to.

MARTIN: So talk about - how is talk of a Vice President Burgum being received in North Dakota? You told us a couple of times he's super popular, could easily have won a third term if he wanted one. What are people thinking about, or what are they talking about when it comes to him and his - I'm curious about, like, how they reacted to his presidential bid, as...


MARTIN: ...Brief as it was? And what do they think about him potentially joining a Trump ticket?

JENDRYSIK: Well, the - I think the presidential bid was greeted with sort of - is incredulousness, I guess, would be the word I would use. People weren't quite sure what he was trying to achieve. And I think mainly, you know, the - people saw the bid as maybe a chance to raise his national profile for a potential Vice Presidential nomination. But people here are following his - this whole discussion with great interest. I think it'd be a - you know, a major boon in North Dakota, a state that feels forgotten.

MARTIN: All right. That is - and certainly some - a good subject for a political scientist like yourself to chew on and write about, right?

JENDRYSIK: Absolutely.

MARTIN: All right. That is...

JENDRYSIK: It's wonderful.

MARTIN: That is Mark Jendrysik. He's a political scientist at the University of North Dakota. Professor Jendrysik, thanks so much for talking with us.

JENDRYSIK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.