Doug Burgum dropped out of the 2024 Republican presidential primary, his campaign announced on Monday.
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"In community after community along this journey, we witnessed the best that America has to offer. We are deeply grateful for each and every person who supported us with their ideas, prayers, advocacy, encouragement and enthusiasm," Burgum said in a statement.
The North Dakota governor had emphasized three key issues on the trail -- the economy, energy and national security -- but failed to gain traction with GOP voters. He was polling last on the list of major candidates tracked by 538's national average and did not qualify for the most recent primary debate.
Burgum's exit narrows the field yet again as rivals like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley pitch themselves as viable alternatives to former President Donald Trump, the front-runner despite his many legal troubles and controversies. (He denies wrongdoing.)
In his statement, Burgum, a former software executive before entering politics, said he began his campaign "clear-eyed about our mission: bring a business leader and proven governor's voice to the fight for the best of America."
He said he was proud of how his messaging had, in his view, focused the 2024 conversation on the "essential, core responsibilities of the President and the executive branch," such as foreign policy.
Senior staff found out he was going to drop out this weekend, following his last visit in New Hampshire -- where Burgum appeared emotional while speaking at his events. (He will pay his staff until the end of December.)
On Saturday, Burgum addressed a room full of voters at a county GOP meeting in Amherst, New Hampshire. There wasn't a single person in the room who said they planned to vote for him.
The consensus remained that their admiration for Bugum would not turn into support for him as the nominee -- as voters instead said they were looking at candidates such as Haley and DeSantis.
Overall, members showed up to pay their party dues and chat with "a respectable and nice guy," as one person put it.
Throughout his presidential campaign, Burgum never bashed an opposing candidate or commented on Trump's legal battles. He even shied away from rhetoric regarding culture politics.
Instead, Burgum remained hyper-focused on his three core issues.
His only negative attacks were directed at the Republican National Committee, which he reiterated on Monday, calling out their "clubhouse debate requirements" for "nationalizing the primary process and taking the power of democracy away from the engaged, thoughtful citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire."
Each successive GOP primary has required candidates to get higher and higher percentages either in national polls or certain state polls, as well as receive more and more donors.
"None of their debate criteria relate to the qualifications related to actually doing the job of the president," Burgum argued.
The governor had an underdog mentality that continued into the final weeks of his campaign.
"America loves an underdog," Burgum said back in October. "We're gaining momentum every day and every week."
In order to get on the first debate stage, Burgum, who is independently wealthy from his business career, gifted $20 gift cards to 50,000 people who gave $1 to his campaign.
The night ahead of that debate, Burgum tore his Achilles tendon. In between his governorship in North Dakota and campaigning in the presidential race, he spent his days rehabbing from his injury.
During the second debate, Burgum poured more money into ad buys and another gift card giveaway to reach the RNC's donor threshold. He failed to make the cut for last month's debate, however.
Still, he projected optimism about the future and said on Monday: "We remain committed to improving the lives of every American by moving America 180 degrees in the opposite direction of [President] Joe Biden."
"Our decision to run for President came from a place of caring deeply about every American and a mission to re-establish trust in America's leadership and our institutions of democracy," Burgum said of he and his wife, Kathryn.
It's unclear what is next for Burgum. He is able to seek another term as governor and he repeatedly denied interest in a Cabinet position in another Republican administration.
"While this primary process has shaken my trust in many media organizations and political party institutions, it has only strengthened my trust in America," he said in his statement on Monday. "Our nation doesn't need to be perfect to be exceptional."