By Aaron Pellish, CNN

(CNN) — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, a top contender to be Donald Trump’s running mate, sought to raise expectations of President Joe Biden’s debate abilities ahead of CNN’s presidential debate on Thursday.

“When he needs to, he can step up,” the Republican governor told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “State of the Union” Sunday, pushing back on what he called “a real effort on the Biden team to try to lower expectations.”

Citing Biden’s long political experience, Burgum said: “This guy has got the ability – and we’ve seen it, we’ve seen him in debate four years ago. We’ve seen him in the State of the Union this year – that when he needs to, he can step up.”

Burgum joins Trump and other Republican allies who have sought to forecast a formidable debate showing from the president ahead of the June 27 debate. Despite questioning Biden’s mental fitness on the campaign trail, Trump said last week that he thought Biden would be a “worthy debater,” pointing to his 2012 vice presidential debate with Paul Ryan.

“I watched him with Paul Ryan, and he destroyed Paul Ryan,” Trump said. “I’m not underestimating him.”

This week’s one-on-one showdown will be the first presidential debate between an incumbent and a former president. It will also be the first debate since 2020 featuring either Biden, who did not face a serious challenge for the Democratic nomination, or Trump, who skipped those held during the Republican primary race.

A Biden campaign memo on Sunday said that the president will seek to focus on abortion, democracy, and Trump’s economic plans during the debate. The president and his team are spending the weekend before the debate at Camp David, poring over briefing binders and holding mock debate sessions.

While Trump has held informal briefing sessions with advisers and allies, he has also kept up an active campaign schedule.

Asked Sunday about being among Trump’s running mate options, Burgum said: “He’s got a lot of great choices and I think everybody – the whole country, maybe, knows my background, which is both success in business and success in the executive branch as governing.”

“But that’s his choice on what criteria that he wants,” he added.

Burgum, who sold a software company to Microsoft for over $1 billion in stock prior to serving as North Dakota governor, also left the door open for possibly contributing his own personal wealth to the campaign if nominated. Federal campaign finance laws allow for candidates to contribute unlimited sums to their own campaigns.

“If we’re asked, we’ll see what happens,” he said.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kate Sullivan contributed to this story.

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