In a sit-down interview at the Iowa State Fair, Burgum told ABC News Correspondent MaryAlice Parks that while his opinion of Trump hasn't changed, "My opinion of presidential elections are -- they need to be about the future."
Burgum, who was relatively little known on the national stage before launching his White House bid in early June, also pushed back on the idea that he might really be trying to pitch himself as a Cabinet secretary for the next GOP president.
"I'm running for president of the United States of America -- the most important job in the country," he said.
"We know we got the qualifications as both a governor of an energy and ag[riculture] state and as someone who's got an impeccable record in the private sector that knows how to run and build and lead teams that are high-performing," he told Parks. "That's what I've done my whole life."
"I think competition is fantastic for this country. I think it's great for the Republican Party," he said, "and I think that voters in January are going to want to have some choices. So we're running to be among those."
Burgum cited his local track record, going from software founder to politician. He successfully ran against the North Dakota Republican Party's preferred candidate in the 2016 gubernatorial primary, state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and then overwhelmingly winning reelection in 2020.
"We got a ton of support in North Dakota and this support goes back not just to '16. It goes back to kids growing up at Arthur that I went to high school with are supporting us, people that I started our first business [with] are supporting us. People that have been farm and ranch neighbors for 20, 30, 40 years," he said.
His North Dakota record and pitch to national voters
The governor has defined his presidential platform around the economy, energy and national security. In his interview with ABC News, Burgum suggested that culture war issues were better left to individual states.
Among the legislation he signed as governor were bills limiting health care for transgender youth and banning most abortions.
"North Dakota is a conservative state. And that legislation was all passed, totally appropriate for North Dakota," he said.
As a presidential candidate, however, he's said he would not support a similar federal abortion law if he is elected.
"That's being left to the states. That's where it should go. What works for New York is never going to work for North Dakota and across the country," he said.
He called the presidency "very narrow and very defined in terms of what the role is in the Constitution."
"The rest is left to the states or to the people, and some of these decisions need to be left at that level and not at the federal level," he said.Elsewhere in the sit-down, Burgum talked about his energy policies, including the value of pursuing carbon neutrality through "innovation" and not "regulation"; his support for "decoupling" the U.S. economy from China; and whether voters will stick with Trump.
"Are they ready to move on? And I think that when we get to next January [when the first nominating contest is held], voters are going to have a chance to decide: Do they want to talk about the future or do they want to talk about the past?" he said. "I think that a majority of them are going to say, 'It's time for us to focus on the future.'"