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Doug Burgum outside the Microsoft offices in Fargo, N.D.
Doug Burgum outside the Microsoft offices in Fargo, N.D., on May 24, 2023.Tim Gruber for NBC News

Burgum appears to qualify for first Republican presidential debate

Seven candidates appear to have met the Republican Party's key criteria for participating in the first presidential debate in August.


North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum appears to have qualified for the Republican Party's first presidential debate in August, according to an NBC News analysis.

Burgum hit 1% in his second national poll Tuesday, when Morning Consult released their weekly tracking poll update. (He had previously registered 1% in a poll by JMC Analytics released Sunday). Those two polls, plus his previous showing in a Fox Business poll of Iowa and a University of New Hampshire poll of that state appears to meet one of the two pathways the party laid out for candidates to hit the polling requirements to make its first debate.

The governor had previously announced he had met the other key threshold, raising money from 40,000 unique donors and meeting other smaller state-level requirements.

On Monday, NBC News reported that six other candidates appeared to have hit those two main qualifying thresholds for the August debate.

Candidates also must agree to sign a pledge to support the party's eventual nominee and to not participate in debates that aren't sanctioned by the party.

The Republican National Committee is the final arbiter of whether candidates meet all the thresholds. NBC News' analysis is based off public poll releases that appear to meet the party's criteria (the RNC hasn't released a list of approved pollster, but a list of certain qualities it wants to see in approved polls), as well as candidates and campaigns attesting they've met polling thresholds.

Burgum entered the race relatively late and without much of a national profile. But the wealthy businessman-turned-governor spent heavily out of his own pockets, loaning his campaign more than $10 million, to saturate the airwaves with an ad campaign and raise his stock among GOP voters and eclipse the polling thresholds needed to make the stage. The governor also wooed potential donors with promises of $20 gift cards in exchange for a $1 donation as he looked to meet the party's unique donor threshold.

The governor has spent more money on ads since he jumped into the race on June 7 than any other candidate. But that spending has slowed in recent weeks.

Burgum averaged $137,000 per day in advertising spending, per AdImpact, in the 43 days between when he announced his campaign and when he said he hit the 40,000 unique donor threshold. In the five days since, he's averaged less than $6,000 per day in ad spending.