It Begins: Doug Burgum Makes Big Statewide Television Advertising Buy


Three candidates competing for the North Dakota Republican Party's endorsement for governor debate in Bismarck on Thursday, March, 3, 2016. Pictured from the left is state Rep, Rick Becker of Bismarck, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Fargo Entrepreneur Doug Byrgum. Bismarck tribune Photo/Will Kincaid

In my last Sunday column I predicted that the big winner in the NDGOP’s gubernatorial nomination race would be North Dakota’s advertising industry.

“Because the only way Fargo businessman Doug Burgum is going to win the nomination is if he starts plowing piles of money into advertising, raising his name recognition and attacking Stenehjem,” I wrote.

Looks like I was probably right.

According to someone familiar with the buy Burgum – who is competing for the nomination against Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and state Rep. Rick Becker – has purchased television advertising.

It wasn’t a small buy either. He’ll be running 30 and 60 second spots on statewide television at a cost of approximately $150,000.

Is that a lot of money for a statewide ad buy in March for a nomination race? Because it seems like a lot.

As of last night the stations hadn’t filed anything with the FCC yet (federal regulations require disclosure of political advertising buys), but I guess the purchase was made late yesterday afternoon.

I reached out to both Burgum and his campaign manager last night, but I haven’t received a response from either. I’ll update when/if I do.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Burgum will be running 30 and 60 second spots on statewide television at a cost of approximately $150,000.[/mks_pullquote]

What’s kind of mind blowing is that we’re probably going to see a lot of money – I’m forecasting millions – spent on the Republican primary race and maybe a fraction of that in the general election race featuring the eventual Republican candidate, a third party candidate, and either a no-show from the Democrats or a last-minute, warm-body candidate.

The content of Burgum’s advertising will be interesting. It will tell us a lot.

If Burgum begins targeting Stenehjem immediately it means his campaign has already written off Becker who has said he won’t put his name on the June primary ballot if he loses at the state convention (and the safe bet is that he’s going to lose).

It also means that Burgum probably got spooked by that North Dakota United poll showing him losing in a landslide. The polling, conducted the end of February by DFM Research, had 59 percent of likely Republican primary voters saying they’d cast their ballots for Stenehjem and just 10 percent saying they’d do so for Burgum.

Worse, 38 percent of poll respondents said they’d never heard of Burgum (just 9 percent said the same of Stenehjem).

That’s the problem Burgum needs this advertising to fix, and it can’t be fixed with name ID ads which only talk about what a great guy Burgum is.

Because Stenehjem is already at 59 percent and has been winning statewide elections as Attorney General with around 70 percent of the vote.

Before Burgum can convince voters to hire him, he has to convince them to fire Stenehjem.

Not an easy nut to crack, but not an impossible one either.