On Principles, Policies and Politicians; Speaking Truth to Power: a Message to You, Jon Tester

By JC

“If you want to be a malleable politician, you campaign from the center. But if you want to be a leader, you define the center. You don’t rely on polls to tell you where to go. At best, polls tell you where people are, and it’s pointless to lead people where they already are. The essence of political leadership is focusing the public’s attention on the hard issues that most would rather avoid or dismiss.” — Robert Reich, Reason

With those words firmly planted in mind, I’m going to relate a story of how Jon Tester’s candidacy for the Senate was given a huge boost by a contingent of Montanans throwing their weight behind his candidacy in the 2006 primary against John Morrison and others.

And we start the story with a poll: John Morrison +1%.

That was the number that was staring at Democrats a few weeks before the June 6th, 2006 Democrat primary for Senate in Montana. Coupled with that number were other polls that showed Morrison at a serious disadvantage compared to Jon Tester in a one-to-one matchup against 3-time incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns.

Sitting back in the pack of Democrats running in the primary was Paul Richards, polling at about 2%. While 2% isn’t much, during the general election, almost 200,000 votes were cast Democrat. So around 4,000 people could have been said to support Paul. Not a large number, and not a particularly big political base from which to attempt to influence the statewide race. Or so it seems.

But let’s consider for a moment whom those 4,000 people may have been.

Paul Richards, for all intents and purposes, is a progressive environmental and social justice advocate’s dream candidate. Paul was elected to the Montana House in 1974, and was the youngest sitting legislator in history. He advocates strong progressive and environmental values. To this day Paul has been a fearless and fierce voice for the beliefs and principles he advances, and has dedicated his life’s work to that effect.

Those of us who rallied behind Paul had known him for decades, and had worked with him on many environmental issues, including wildland and wildlife issues. Suffice it to say that Paul is a known entity among what has become known as the progressive, leftist environmental movement in Montana.

While it is easy to pigeon hole those of us as “extremists” as Senator Tester has recently done, that belies the knowledge of who we are: your neighbors, farmers, ranchers, businessmen, policemen, teachers, laborers, clerks, lawyers… everyday people, but I digress (many stories, too little space).

Back to that poll number. Along with that number was the knowledge that the Montana Senate race was seen as one of the closest in the U.S., and that its outcome could well tip the balance of the Senate to Democrats. The 2004 Senate had 55 Republicans. And we were tired of them, each and every one.

A week or so before the primary, Paul Richards made the decision that if he could meet with Jon Tester, and work out an arrangement–an agreement of principles–that he would drop out of the race and support him in his primary, and if he won that, in his general election campaign against Conrad Burns.

Paul received ascension from his supporters that if Jon were to agree to certain principles, and he endorsed him, that they would follow Paul. It was an historic moment, as a leftist environmental contingent had never come out of the woodwork to work politically in this way in Montana.

Jon Tester agreed to that meeting and Pauls’ terms, and on May 31st, Paul Richards dropped out of the race and publicly endorsed Jon Tester. During that meeting, Jon agreed if elected to abide to the following terms and principles:

  • 1. Help stop the Iraq War, withdraw U.S. troops in Iraq, and work for peace.
  • 2. Work to protect all of Montana’s remaining roadless wildlands. Tester said he would talk with Michael Garrity of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and he would “look at” the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.
  • 3. Work to significantly enhance national applications of sustainable agriculture.
  • 4. Work to significantly enhance national use of renewable energy. Tester said he would support the Apollo Alliance’s programs for renewable energy.
  • 5. Work to settle outstanding Native American claims, particularly in regard to the Cobell lawsuit.
  • 6. Establish public financing for all federal elections.
  • 7. Support universal health insurance, specifically “Medicare-for-all.”

The rest is history. Jon Tester won a deciding primary victory over John Morrison. Paul Richard’s supporters, while relatively few in number, were a very active and participative group of people. They knew how to organize and talk policy. How to motivate people to register to vote, turn out and vote Dem. They were a politicians dream: willing to give funds, time and energy to a campaign when it was most needed.

Jon Tester won the election against Conrad Burns by 3,562 votes. The Senate swung to +1 Democrat. Jon Tester’s election gave control of the Senate to Democrats, and those 2% who swung from Paul to Jon celebrated along with the others a sweet victory. Finally, a turn away from the Bush years.

Those in Paul’s constituency felt like they had come together and overcame great hurdles in bringing together the needed coalition to get Tester over the hump. And they felt like they had helped elect someone who had given his word to abide by certain principles, to represent their interests in Congress.

As part of the above 7 points, Jon Tester had agreed to meet with Michael Garrity, Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, which he did. In that conversation, Jon told Michael that he would not resort to using riders to pass environmental issues. They shook hands on it. Michael took Jon at his word that he would follow through, and swung his support and his Alliance’s support to Jon.

During Jon’s first term in office he took two actions that have explicitly gone against his promises: 1) he has introduced his Logging Bill, which would release certain lands protected as wilderness under current statutes and management practices; and 2) he inserted the wolf delisting rider into the 2011 Budget Bill.

Both pieces of legislation have been heavily panned by those who supported Paul Richards in his withdrawal from the primary race, and endorsement of Tester–and by many, many others. And for that vocal criticism of Tester’s legislation, Tester labeled his former supporters “extremists.” I guess their position once upon a time wasn’t too extreme for him to shake hands with. And Jon invited “extremist” Paul onto the stage for a victory salute. But those supporters have not changed their principles, policies, or politics. Jon Tester has.

Mind you, this is Montana, where extremists are people the average Montanan is told to be frightened of: eco-terrorists. Jon has single-handedly, and intentionally ostracized a valuable part of his base and constituency. And other supporters of his have attempted to throw that label in our faces as emotional bait to ignite a base war and discredit us.

Elsewhere, Steve Kelly made the astute comment: “will Dems be rewarded in a ‘base v. base’ election? With progressives gone fishing it’s shaping up a lot like 2010.” As Matthew Koehler put it, “the blank checkbox ballot”. It was never the intention of Paul Richards, or any of his supporters to ignite a base war over Tester’s actions. But it has been the intention of several of his most ardent supporters to attack those who have had the temerity to criticize Senator Tester for his actions that have gone against his word.

Jon Tester ran as a man of integrity and character whose word and handshake meant something. To those of us who are left wondering who this Jon Tester is–that is willing to go back on his word, enact bad legislation and bad mouth former supporters–wonder how or if he will repair his coalition. Because just stating the lesser of two evils argument isn’t going to do it. Jon Tester has done in 4 years more damage, legislatively, to the principles that many environmentalists hold dear in Montana than Conrad Burns ever did.

And now Tester’s supporters want to make the 2012 election all about the left not criticizing their incumbent senator, and rallying together and being polite–rallying around some mushy and mythical center created by the teabaggers attempting to pull politics and politicians as far right as possible.

Senator Tester laid the fuse for a base war when he violated his agreements with Paul Richards (“How can I describe my sadness that Jon Tester, a man I once trusted and helped put into office, is now officially promoting this madness?”) and Michael Garrity. It is those who would presume to know where the center is and what it wants who have lit the fuse by attacking those on the “far left” and attempting to create a false equivalency between their actions and the actions of teapublican activists on the far right.

And I’m sure I’ll be attacked again for dredging this all up. It would be so much tidier to just let bygones be bygones, and sweep it all under the rug, and apologize for being a leftist with principles. Actual things I believe in–like wilderness and biodiversity and intrinsic rights. But I won’t.

I’ll close by paraphrasing Robert Reich’s words that I opened this essay with:

Senator Tester, we need a leader who is willing to define and articulate a center towards which you would lead this state and country. Bear it in mind, that strong political allies of yours have been attacked by your supporters, and your actions have belied your words and promises. It is time to lead, or as others have said “will Dems be rewarded in a “base v. base” election?” Your choice.

And now you know the rest of the story…

———-
ps, on Paul’s website, there is a great essay on speaking truth to power. Must read for those on the left who are attacked for doing so.

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  1. Tester won Missoula County by about 14K votes in 2006. It will be interesting to see if that happens again. If it doesn’t, he’ll lose.

  2. Tester did exceedingly well in Yellowstone…and he also took Ravalli County. Not only that, he pulled very close in rural counties all over the state and it was those numbers that told me early on in that November 2006 evening that Tester was going to win this thing.

    Tester will still pull good numbers in rural counties all over this state. Providing Democrats go the the polls in 2012 (and I don’t imagine they won’t), Jon will do just fine.

    He needs to be held accountable. I’m glad for posts like this.

    • Tester lost by 13 percentage points (2200 votes out of roughly 18k cast) in Ravalli County.

      Between his proposal to cut the extra $25 in weekly unemployment benefits that were part of the stim plan, the D.C. gun bill pander he co-sponsored with McCain, and the DREAM Act vote, I’ll be holding him accountable with no contributions, no door knocking, and no support at the ballot box.

  3. jim

    Now Baucus in his recent editorial is trying to provide cover to Tester by claiming that it was all his (Baucus) doing to get the wolf rider attached to the budget bill. Funny, that jon has been bragging for weeks that he was going to get it attached by himself. Failing to mention Baucus, and now Baucus is taking credit. No honor among thieves.

  4. Doug

    Yes, let’s hold him accountable. Let’s elect a Republican.

    • Lisa Ladd-Wilson

      Yes. Exactly.

      How else do you hold a politician accountable?

  5. I published a more lengthy rebuttal over at my site, but I think there is a difference between holding Senator Tester “accountable” and helping to elect Denny Rehberg.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing some of this energy directed against Rehberg more often.

    • I’m going to respectfully disagree.

      First and foremost, any press is good press. It gets name recognition. I’m sure both Tester and Rehberg both agree.

      Secondly, Tester has run the numbers. He’s going into this election having planned for it for 6 years now and he made a calculated turn. He’s a big boy, it was his choice and he obviously feels comfortable with it. He probably loves any article that criticizes him and wolves or him and forest issues.

      Third, JC? Me? I’m pretty sure we’re not here to preach to the choir.

      Apparently it seems of late this blog has crossed some invisible but real (and unknown to me) line in the left side of the wing that now defines this blog as “difficult” or “damaging” to Democrats? Or Tester? Or Obama?

      I don’t know exactly what it is, but I’m not liking the criticism being lobbed either directly or indirectly for opinions that are merely contrary and not offensive or racist or bigoted.

      Apparently we’re not getting the messaging correctly or soemthing.

      But “Helping to elect Denny Rehberg”? How else am I supposed to interpret a statement like that?

      Read the archives on Rehberg, fcol.

      • lizard19

        if a few bloggers who represent a few thousand eco-extremists writing a few posts critical of Tester are having an effect, it’s due in part to the vehement backlash from a few other bloggers who disagree.

        i have only recently started appreciating the art of not responding to obvious provocations.

    • everyone here respects your work on getting important information out about rehberg, don. you do it with very little help from MSM of course, anyone sensible would want to do whatever we can to finish any further political career plans of the montana’s very embearassing (and i do mean …bear-assing) dennis rehberg.

      that being said, i fully understand the feelings of jc here. jon was sent to washington dc to do more than prevent his defeated opponent conrad burns from furthering his political career. he was sent to washington to deliver a message from people who voted for him that the regular good old system of corruption that conrad burns embodied would never be tolerated by his office. jon talked a good line about transparency and openness and then copied conrad’s forest profits first/ wilderness last bill complete with closed meetings with sycophants. jon shut out any organizations that truly represented wilderness in this state.

      this circle the wagons approach seems to shut out dissent from people who might have valid points about a subject near and dear to anyone calling themselves montanans- wilderness is arguably montanas most valuable resource now and will most certainly increase in value as the world is ravaged by overpopulation.

      and lastly, jon has disappointed many of us in his willingness to shadow learn the art of evil deal making from max baucus and learn the moves of a soulless creature who has earned the eternal enmity of many of us with his willingness to invite the filth of corruption by his open invitation to allow lobbyists from banking and insurance industries to call the shots in a seat once held by the esteemed mansfield.

      i keep waiting for jon to break from the octopus-like baucus full body hug, but ever hopeful, i must admit i have given up.

      so here’s my half-hearted early endorsement for you don-

      if the only choice is rehberg and tester i will vote for tester, but i will not put myself out helping in the effort any more than jon did in helping himself. that’s the best i can do.

      and for the love of god- if there is a decent sane and sensible independent out there who wants to break this morass of partisan/corruption we call the senate, sign me up for helping you.

    • Matthew Koehler

      Hello Don,

      I just re-read your very excellent and heart-felt piece from December 19, 2010 titled, “Disappointment with Senator Tester: A Reflection.”

      http://intelligentdiscontent.com/2010/12/19/disappointment-with-senator-tester-a-reflection/

      That post was based on Tester’s DREAM Act vote, but also a few other votes and policy positions. How do you figure your post from a few months ago squares with the post you made over at your site as a rebuttal to JC’s post here?

      Couldn’t your December 2010 post be viewed as “helping to elect Denny Rehberg” as much as it could be viewed as “holding Senator Tester ‘accountable.'”

      This is an honest question and I’m curious as to your response. Thanks.

  6. Jake

    We must remember that the lines have been drawn and our primary focus has to be to get Jon re-elected. The alternative is not in any way acceptable. Intellectual squabbling is a waste of energy, especially as some have estimated, it could be a close race.

    • we must die and pay taxes.

      everything else is about choices. i choose to vote for jon. but saying i must support him just gets my hackles up.

  7. ladybug

    Tester is well into the “Melcherization” process. Self-inflicted wounds are the hardest to learn from. Neoliberal Democrats are steaming ahead in the mother ship, right into that proverbial iceberg everyone else on board has no problem seeing.

  8. Concerned

    Hmmm, John Morrison was such a blue dog in training…and his emerging proclivities showed more than his horniness but exposed his hypocrisy on ethics in handling the case and his affair…very easy to claim being a strong ethical voice until you actually show that you aren’t. That’s what cinched it imo – his slickee boy nature sorta started coming through and more apparent as he dealt with the issue and his desperation.

    I’m not 100% happy with everything Tester – but I do believe he’s a step in the right direction in terms of being who we think he should be. Its great – and ok to push him to be better and more progressive for us too.

    Speaking of Morrison off topic, I’ve always wondered why more investigating wasn’t done about rumors that the mass staff exodus in 2003 was about more than just the Tacke affair, and that the huge bonus giveaway as he ran out of years in office was more about paying the price of years of silence from his staff. I mean 150K in bonuses + 186K in salary bumps among 71 employees in MT…? Always seemed fishy (especially if you look at who got the big bucks – as much as 14K in bonus alone).

  9. Ryan Emmett Morton

    As a former politician running for office, I was criticized with great vigor. I know my previous job had a lot to do with that. Anyhow… the criticism I received went a long way in helping define for myself where my beliefs were strong and where they were weak. I engaged, as best I could, with everyone that had a beef with me and found that to be a positive, humbling experience. It taught me respect for the people and the office for which I was running. I think some politicians lose that…

    Back to my story…

    While some may argue that criticism of me helped Strohmaier win is debatable. I had my own family issues going on at the time and probably should have dropped out. I didn’t knock a single door. But at the end of the day, Ward 1 was going to get a good representative and it did. I also criticized publicly Dave’s position on the treatment of the homeless in Missoula – in front of the Missoula Downtown Association membership meeting among others. I think that helped Dave see another perspective on those issues that wasn’t popular in many crowds. I’ll let him speak for himself, but at the end of the day it really is debatable who between us is more liberal. :-)

    So to finish…

    If we don’t do some level of criticism amongst ourselves, how can we expect to grow and develop as a party or as a community. I hope Tester answers the criticisms, I hope he shows us the values for which Montanans hold, and I hope he wins.

    • I’m definitely not saying that we shouldn’t criticize political leaders and candidates just because they are Democrats.

      I’ve just been troubled by the stridency and volume of the criticism.

      • I wish I were able to be sitting with you, talking with you when I say this so you knew the tone and manor in which it was asked – so that being said, I ask this with respect and sincerely.

        You are concerned not with the accuracy of what is being said here, you are concerned with the frequency? And the content? You use “and” between “stridency” and “volume”….

        I mean – I don’t know what to say to that. Is there a sacred time when we shouldn’t point out disappointment? Or should it be done only once and then move on?

        I truly am troubled by this criticism. I expect it from bovine chick – that place is nothing more than a toolbox for a certain kind of politician. But to hear it lobbed here from Rob and you? Far as I know, LitW never took too well to people trying to critique its content…I’m not sure why we shouldn’t be just a little upset.

        • My critiques have never been lobbed at the website, jhwygirl. They have been very specific, aimed at very specific authors concerning very specific issues they refuse to respond to save personally attacking me while hypocritically accusing me of attacking their poor fragile selves.

          • lizard19

            says the provocateur trying to play himself off as the victim.

            • Matthew Koehler

              Ryan, thanks for your words. Heartfelt and make a lot of sense to me.

              Don/Pogie: Over at your own site you stated, “This Tester supporter thinks that criticizing policy decisions and pushing for more progressive outcomes is not only everyone’s right, but responsibility.”

              If that’s the case, how does that square with your statement here? I mean, when it comes to Tester’s mandated logging bill and his wolf rider all I’ve simply done is criticized Senator Tester’s policy decisions based on the substance of the issues, while also pushing for more progressive outcomes.

              And Lizard hits it on the head with Rob. I mean, Rob has just become increasingly abusive on these blogs. I have a hard time figuring out how that helps re-elect Tester in the short term, or progressive issues in the long term. Thanks.

      • i am troubled by any attempt to stifle intelligent and meaningful discussions. there are many viewpoints from independents and progressives here. and all of them deserve a chance to express themselves.

        certainly, if you disagree, feel free to argue. stridency is part of the game here, don. and frequency? for reals? there is no volume dial here. everyone functions independently here. there is no rule here except to be real about how you feel. no posers here and no step into formation either.

        that is the beauty of 4 and 20 in my humble opinion. and any outside attempts to control what goes on here are ignored. speaking for myself, i mete out punishment when it is deserved, regardless of party.

        as i have said on many occasions here, america needs to stop rewarding bad behavior….. or we can just expect more of it.

      • Pogo Possum

        I understand why you are “. . . troubled by the stridency and volume of the criticism” of Democratic leaders and candidates, Pogie.

        I am just curious if you are equally “. . . troubled by the stridency and volume of the criticism” directed towards Republican leaders and candidates.

        • Matthew Koehler

          I may not agree with “pogo possum” on many of the issues, but this is a very good question that Don/Pogie should answer. I mean, it’s ok for his “stridency and volume of criticism” to be directed at someone with an “R” behind their name, but when people focus on policy issues and criticize someone with a “D” behind their name, Don emerges as the “blog cop?” Seriously, dude. Pretty hypocritical.

        • petetalbot

          I am not “troubled by the stridency and volume of the criticism directed towards Republican leaders and candidates.”

          That’s my job description. After all, this is a left-leaning site. What does one expect? Just like I expect the stridency and volume in the criticism directed toward Democrats over at Electric City Weblog.

          The criticism of Tester here pales in comparison to the criticism of Tester at the conservative sites, even though Tester is a pretty moderate guy.

          • JC

            I think part of what Matt refers to is that those in the nonprofit world, particularly 501(c)(3) organizations, are more interested in policy, as by definition, nonprofits are issue oriented, and not political.

            So those who are not in the nonprofit world tend to take the ability of those who criticize policies (particularly when the focus is on the actions of a dem politician) as being political, and counterproductive.

            But in actuality it is the mission by which a nonprofit is incorporated that guides its actions–not a political agenda. A 501(c)(3) cannot incorporate if its primary mission is political, that is left up to other corporate structures.

            So in all practicality, when people try to make the argument that when Matt or I say x,y,z about a particular politician’s actions on a policy, and tell us it has negative political connotations, they are essentially telling us to ignore our mission, as spelled out in our articles and incorporation.

            We look at political fallout as being the consequences and responsibility of the politician for having taken certain actions. And as much as some people hate it, many nonprofits exist to hold politicians accountable on matters of policy.

  10. lizard19

    And to obnoxiously point out just one more time, Don, you said this:

    Rob wrote about the purpose and future of Left in the West. I’ve had a draft sitting here about the single issue “progressives” who attack Democrats without pause at Left in the West and other sites, but I think Rob does a great job explaining the importance of working to support Democrats, even as we occasionally criticize them.

    here is a snippet of that great job you linked to:

    If you don’t want to participate here, then leave. No one needs to hear your formal declaration of leaving, you pompous asses; that is, save you. Yes, I’m absolutely certain that the departure of pompous left wing assholes will kill the website, (except that traffic has been well up over the last period of conflict). In truth, I don’t care if it does. It isn’t my website; I’m just the guy trying to run it.

    Here’s the dealio. Democrats still have value. I like Jon Tester, even more for taking action on wolf control dictated by the judiciary. Don’t like that? Tough shit. Leave. I like Barrack Obama. I think he called out the Republicans and has played them very well. Don’t like that? Tough shit. Leave. Seriously. You don’t like Democrats? Leave, assholes.

    is that really the hothead sort of reasoning you support?

    • You don’t have the nads to point out a single fault with that post save that you demand Pogie repudiate it. Make an argument, if you’re able. Bring it on, kitten, or continue to huff and puff and be laughable.

      • lizard19

        counterproductive. self-fulfilling prophecy. meow.

    • Matthew Koehler

      Lizard, I might as well point out that this week I was removed from front page posting status over at Left in the West.

      Both Rob Kailey and Matt Singer deny removing me…Yet then Rob wrote Matt S and I to say, “You will regain front page status when some conditions are met.”

      Kinda contradictory, don’t you think? Besides, I’m not at all interested in learning what Rob’s “conditions” are anyway.

      Also according to Rob, he claimed that “The post which brought this conflict to a head, between you and I, was the one in which you let your professional activity escape the bounds of what you were willing to own up to.”

      Honestly, not sure what he’s talking about, but this was the post, which promptly got me removed from LiTW’s front page: http://leftinthewest.com/diary/4630/action-alert-senator-tester-and-his-wolf-rider

      For the record, I didn’t write the wolf action alert with any direct help from any of the plaintiff groups. I didn’t write the wolf action alert at the request or encouragement of any of the plaintiff groups. I didn’t write the wolf action alert while being paid by WildWest Institute or anyone else. I wrote the wolf action alert on my own, in my living room, while drinking coffee with my wife.

      • Steve W

        Matt K, the only reason I bothered to click on LITW these days was to read your diary.

        I’m glad to not have to go there anymore.

      • JC

        Huh, letting one’s professional activity influence one”s blogging. You mean kinda like Matt S using Forward Montana material on LitW? Nobody ever had a problem with that before.

        Sounds like somebody’s getting censored… And the rest of us are getting bullied and intimidated. So much for the promotion of open thought and exchange of ideas across the street.

        And what is it with this chest-thumper running around demanding that people respond to him and that people “own-up?” Who comes in here and tries to run the show? Who always think that his point-of-view and take on the “facts” is the only correct one? One who doesn’t know the difference between “critique” and ad hominem attack.

      • lizard19

        well, that’s unfortunate, but not surprising. so i guess you can’t respond to Rob’s latest shit-talking post unless you meet “the conditions.” i would be interested to see what those conditions are.

        and i would also be interested to hear what Singer thinks of LitW.

        oh well, life goes on…

        • No liz. He’s welcome to respond. He simply won’t. He’s too busy playing you like a fiddle.

  11. mr benson

    Republicans, fed up with Burns’ big mouth and porkish ways, and a lot of angry firefighters, (fire Burns!) elected Tester.

    I don’t put too much stock in the Morrison v Tester battle. If just the Republicans who voted for Rehberg, had voted for Burns, Burns would have won. But instead, Rs voted Rehberg, and nobody, or Tester, for Senate.

    This division, which had showed up in Bob Brown’s campaign when Miller supporters stayed home thinking Bob too moderate, should have continued in the last election as well, but the President unified the Rs who were also energized by several Cups of Tea.

    What has happened since is that many moderates have recoiled from the debacle in the Legislature and will likely vote Tester this time, if he can appear moderate. Rehberg will have to trend more right than usual to fire up the Tea Party. Steve Daines is well supported throughout the party, tea and otherwise and the split won’t affect him.

    The Governor’s race will be the real potboiler, in the primary and in the general. Bullock’s support for the federal raids will hurt him a bit, so the D race has become more open. The R race is anybody’s guess.

    • Pogo Possum

      I agree with most of your analysis Mr. B. with a few minor exceptions.

      You are right, Daines does have clear support among the GOP and the Tea Party followers. The Independents and swing Democrats don’t know who he is yet so that is where he will put most of his efforts. The Democrats have a weak bench this election cycle and I am not seeing any power house Democrate right now who can blow Daines out of the water. Let’s see who steps in on the Dem side later this summer.

      From what I have seen, Rehberg also has strong support from the Republicans and the Tea Party. None of the Tea Party people I know have any major criticism of Dennis.

      You are right, Dennis will have to stay conservative to keep the most conservative elements of these groups happy but I don’t see them or even the more moderate Republicans voting for Tester in any meaningful numbers. They liked him in the past and I don’t see any defections on the horizon unless he makes some major mistakes.

      I don’t see discontent with the state legislature translating to the US Senate race in any meaningful way. Montana voters tend to keep national and state races separate. That is why we often end up with national candidates and state candidates being elected from different parties during the same election cycle.

      Montana’s Senate race will be affected more by what happens in D.C. than in Helena. Right now, public discontent with D.C. Republicans is being offset by a lagging economy and high unemployment numbers that will probably continue into the 2012 election cycle and will be blamed for the most part on Obama. Add Obama’s “well come back Carter” presidency to another hurdle confronting any Democrat running for national office in 2012.

      Rehberg’s challenge will be to reconnect with the Independent’s and conservative swing Democratic voters as evidenced by his polling numbers showing him esentially tied with Tester at this stage instead of enjoying the 10 point plus Republican candidate advantage showing in the Governor’s race.

      Tester has a more difficult challenge. While he has done a good job of taking care of the Veterans and doing some Clinton style triangulation to attract moderates, he has also been forced to make some very unpopular votes that have raised the ire of the most liberal side of his party as well as conservative Republicans and a lot of Tea Party members.

      While a lot of liberals will hold their noses and vote for him over Rehberg, whom they detest, Tester’s concern should be that too many of those Liberals may simply take a pass and skip the Senate race on the ballot out of spite. A lot of Independents will remember Tester’s Obama Care vote plus a few others that will come back to haunt him.

      The Rehberg/Tester race will be a slugfest and possibly come down to the wire. The advantage, at this stage at least, will trend toward Rehberg.

      We have different views of the Republican Governor’s race. I agree the General election will be a pot boiler unless Bullock decides the political winds are too unfavorable and decides to sit this one out. I don’t see that happening and expect Steve to announce sometime within the next 60 days.

      I don’t see any current Republican Primary candidates who can defeat Hill. Although a very large percentage of Republican voters are calling themselves undecided due to the early date, the fact that Hill has more people saying they would vote for him than all the other GOP candidates combined gives a hint at what is to come. Miller and Stapleton will split up any ultra conservative GOP and Tea Party vote thus keeping each of their Primary numbers in the low to high twenties.

      A lot of loyal Republicans will also remember Miller’s tempermental refusal to step up and help Brown in the last Governor’s race and will remind Ken he violated Ronald Reagan’s 11 Commandment when they go to the primary polls.

      O’Hara, who is a great likable fellow but with little ability to raise money or spread an effective messsage, will give any moderate GOP voter who doesn’t like Hill a likable alternative to Miller or Stapleton who they will view as too conservative. O’Hare is betting his entire race on the 90 plus billboards he has hand painted over the past two years. He will pull in low numbers but his entry in the race will ultimatly help Rick keep votes away from Ken and Cory.

      Livingstone is still a bit of an enigma so we will have to wait a to see from which candidate he takes his small number of votes. The rumor on the Lincoln Reagan Day Dinner circut is that Livingstone is just in this to get his bona fides so he can run for the Senate in 2014. His campaign bank account and paid staff are all still in D.C. so that tells you something.

      Republcan primary voters tend to put a lot of value on their perception of who has the best chance of winning the General Election. When/if Bullock enters the race, picking the strongest candidate will be even more important to the GOP primary faithful and thus more of an advantage to Hill in the Primary.

      Message, organization and fundraising will be a big factor in influencing GOP Primary voter’s view of which candidate has the best shot at Bullock. So far, Hill has raised more money than all the other Republican candidates put together and seems to be building fundraising steam rather than petering out like the others who have already tapped out their friends and family.

      Miller’s numbers look downright pathetic for someone who has run for governor before. Cory has done slightly better than Miller and until recently has done a good job of keeping cash in the bank. Cory is also doing a good job of C-5 slight of hand by playing the game of lending his campaign $50,000 to bump up his numbers then slowly pulling it out knowing that it won’t impact the total amount raised that gets reported. Unfortunatly, he isn’t building any fundraising momentum and has been forced to burn some of his cash on hand to hire a fundraiser which is often a poor sign at this stage of the game.

      At his current fundraising pace, Hill will not only be able to dominate the media but should be able to run 3 or 5 ads to each one of his Primary opponents ads in the critical weeks before the Primary when many people make up their minds.

      You also know Hill’s focus on economic development and jobs is starting to resonate when both Miller and Stapleton start stealing lines from Hill’s speeches.

      Again, the General election will be a real barn burner and the only question is how much it gets overshadowed by the Senate race. Buy lots of popcorn.

  12. lizard19

    i am changing my comment because it was in response to a comment by Rob that has since been taken down by the author of this post, a decision i totally agree with.

    personal attacks and making unsubstantiated claims about the “declining readership” of this blog indicates the intention of Rob’s antagonism is to smear, slander, and discredit this site and its contributors.

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