Burgum injured taking part in basketball, might must skip Republican debate

Republican U.S. presidential candidate and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum speaks during Fair-Side Chat with Governor of Iowa Kim Reynolds (not pictured), at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, August 11, 2023.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum was injured playing basketball and may not be able to attend the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee on Wednesday night.

A source from Burgum’s campaign confirmed to NBC News that Burgum, 67, suffered a leg injury during a game of pick-up basketball with his staff Tuesday.

He was transported to an emergency room in the city and discharged from the hospital the same day, the source told NBC, confirming earlier reporting from CNN.

It is “unclear if he will be able to stand” at the two-hour debate, which is set to air on Fox News starting at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday night, the source said.

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Burgum’s campaign will make a decision on his attendance during a walkthrough of the debate space on Wednesday afternoon, a campaign source told NBC.

“I’ve played lots of pick-up games in my day! This isn’t the first time one has sent me to the ER,” Burgum said in a social media post Wednesday morning. The post included included a black-and-white photo of a younger-looking Burgum playing basketball in a gym.

Burgum is one of eight candidates to meet the Republican National Committee’s qualifications for the first debate. The others are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

“Wishing Doug Burgum well. Looking forward to seeing him on stage tonight,” Ramaswamy tweeted Wednesday morning.

For the participants, the debate offers a rare chance to shake up a primary race that has so far been defined by former President Donald Trump’s dominance over the field.

But with Trump opting to skip the debate, his rivals won’t be able to take a direct shot at their biggest obstacle to the GOP nomination, potentially limiting the impact of the event. The absence of the attention-grabbing former president could also result in lower viewership.

Trump, who has accused Fox News of covering him unfairly, is actively working to undermine the debate by taping an interview with ousted Fox host Tucker Carlson that is set to air at the same time. Much of the remaining oxygen in the GOP primary race is being sucked up by Trump’s mounting legal troubles, including his expected surrender Thursday night at a jail in Georgia.

Burgum, a wealthy businessman who was elected governor in 2016, is widely considered a long-shot presidential candidate. He regularly scores in the low single digits in national polls of the GOP primary field.

To reach the 40,000-donor threshold required to qualify for the debate, he gave out $20 gift cards to up to 50,000 people who donated at least $1 to his White House bid.

It was not immediately clear if the RNC would consider replacing Burgum with another Republican candidate if the governor is unable to appear. Multiple candidates — including former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, conservative radio host Larry Elder and businessman Perry Johnson — were denied a spot on stage for failing to meet the debate qualifications.

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