North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum dropped out of the Republican presidential nomination race Monday, becoming the latest candidate to acknowledge the challenges of trying to overtake former President Donald Trump for the GOP’s nod.

The exit by the wealthy former software entrepreneur from a heavily Republican state follows earlier departures by former Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Trump holds a commanding lead in national polls, as well as those in the states that will hold the first nomination balloting in January.

Burgum, 67 years old and known for a casual style and noninflammatory rhetoric, was never a significant presence in the race. He participated in the first and second primary debates in the late summer and early fall, but failed to qualify for subsequent debates because he didn’t meet the Republican National Committee’s polling and fundraising participation requirements.

The fourth debate is Wednesday in Alabama and may feature as few as three participants, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Trump hasn’t participated in any of the debates and it remained unclear Monday morning whether former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would qualify.

In a statement, Burgum criticized the RNC for limiting debate participants.

“The RNC’s clubhouse debate requirements are nationalizing the primary process and taking the power of democracy away from the engaged, thoughtful citizens of Iowa and New Hampshire,” Burgum said. “These arbitrary criteria ensure advantages for candidates from major media markets on the coasts versus America’s Heartland.”

First elected in 2016, Burgum isn’t well known nationally and faced a challenge in building name recognition in a field with much better-known candidates. He spent heavily from his personal fortune to help finance his campaign.

In his native North Dakota, Burgum built Great Plains Software from a small startup into a company acquired by Microsoft for $1.1 billion in stock in 2001. Great Plains, which developed software for small-business tasks and had 1,200 local employees, served as the basis for Microsoft’s move in subsequent years into business-focused software beyond its Office productivity suite.

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