CNN anchor Phil Mattingly repeatedly pressed North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on his recent endorsement of Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination, prompting the Republican to struggle to justify his support for the twice-impeached ex-president.
Burgum, who ended his longshot Republican presidential bid last month, appeared alongside Trump at an Iowa campaign event over the weekend and became the first of Trump’s 2src24 GOP competitors to endorse the former president’s candidacy.
“I’ve had an opportunity to have a front-row seat,” Burgum said at a rally in Indianola. “I’ve seen President Trump and what he’s been able to do. I’ve seen it as a business leader and I’ve seen it as a governor. I’ve seen the difference that President Trump can make.”
Burgum heaping praise on Trump comes just months after the billionaire governor told NBC’s Chuck Todd that he’d likely never do business with the quadruply indicted former president, adding that “it’s important that you’re judged by the company you keep.”
Speaking to Burgum on CNN This Morning, Mattingly noted that the North Dakota governor was singing a “different message” about the ex-president this past summer while invoking his past comments to NBC.
“Governor, we play all of that mostly because I want to make the point, you campaigned and campaigned both for governor and president in a very different way—tonally and message-wise—than the former president,” Mattingly stated. “Why get behind him now?”
Burgum, seeming less-than-enthused about his Trump endorsement, claimed it was because it was both an “easy choice” and a “binary choice” due to the ex-president’s overwhelming lead in GOP primary polls.
“President Trump is going to win the Republican nomination,” he continued. “It’s not going to be close. He’s going to be up against Joe Biden and as a governor and a business person, I have had an opportunity to see what it’s like under each of those presidents, and I can tell you, in our state, an energy and agriculture state, we were much better off under President Trump.”
Pushing back against Burgum’s framing of the state of the GOP race, the CNN anchor asked “which primary are you watching” before insisting that “it’s not a binary choice” since there are still several Republican candidates contending for the nomination.
“In what world is this a binary choice at this point in time with other candidates still in the race?” Mattingly wondered, prompting Burgum to again assert that the Republican primary is all but finished.
“I think you’ll see tonight in Iowa with the commanding finish that President Trump will have today in the Iowa caucuses,” the governor replied. “And then things might tighten up in New Hampshire, but then you’re going to see across the country that we have never seen this kind of a lead before in a primary, and it’s going to be Trump versus Biden unless the Democrats decide they want to switch horses. But that’s what the race is going to be.”
Mattingly, meanwhile, then asked why Burgum felt he was the first failed 2src24 GOP presidential candidate to endorse Trump in this primary. Again, the governor pointed to Trump’s polling lead as the main reason why he decided to back the disgraced ex-president.
“Well, I’m a business guy. I’m a data-driven person, and I think that it’s not just the writing on the wall,” he responded. “I mean, these are insurmountable odds in terms of just all the things that pundits would look at, and I think you’re going to see in a few months that all of the candidates that have been running, they are all going to, virtually all of them are going to say, hey, I’m going to support the Republican nominee.”
Circling back, the CNN This Morning host questioned where Burgum would stand if Trump weren’t up substantially in the polls, asking the governor if he felt Trump was the best GOP candidate in the field.
“Well, I think the voters are the ones who get to decide that, and I think that’s what you’re seeing,” Burgum said before seemingly comparing Trump to Winston Churchill.
“I think we’ve got in President Trump someone who’s going to help avoid World War III,” he concluded. “This is kind of a Churchill versus Chamberlain. The Biden Administration has been practicing appeasement, and we have seen where that’s taken us, and I think Americans are concerned about the future, and that’s going to be reflected in what the voters say today in Iowa.”