Can we do better?

by Pete Talbot

Pogie, over at Intelligent Discontent, has a post up on Sen. Max Baucus’ re-election bid.  To date, it has generated over 150 comments, so it must be an issue that many people are following, closely.

(The only post of Pogie’s that has received a higher volume of comments was on gun violence, but that subject is guaranteed to bring out more nuts than a Tea Party convention.)

Pogie says that despite Max’s flaws, unless there is a viable challenger in the primary who can go on to beat the Republican in the general election, he’s supporting Max.

Now I have great respect Pogie (Don Pogreba) and his site – I often go to Intelligent Discontent first when I open my laptop – but I’m not ready to concede his point.  And I planned to comment at his site but since my comment was going to run longer than his post, I thought I’d try something here at good ol’ 4&20.

I appreciate Pogie’s concern, having just read an article in the Washington Post about how Republicans are eating their own — the subject being how far-right candidates win in the primaries only to lose in the general elections.  Could this happen to the Democrats in Montana if a more progressive candidate won in our primary?

It’s possible.  But maybe, just maybe, voters are fed up with candidates who take a stand only after they’ve taken a poll, and who receive more in special interest campaign contributions than the GDP of most African nations.

I’ll start by parsing the comments, which, for the most part, made for an intelligent discussion:

“If there were a credible, electable alternative – I’d be there, but there isn’t. As much as I feel that Max is not anywhere near the quality of Senator that the previous seat holder was (Mike Mansfield) I will support him until another Mike comes along.” *


“No one to the left of Max can win in Montana: it’s just that simple … ”

Now I wouldn’t call Brian Schweitzer a progressive, more of a populist, but he’s to the left of Baucus on a number of issues.  Health care comes to mind.  And I’m not advocating Schweitzer as a candidate.  I just want to point out that he came out of nowhere and almost took out Conrad Burns in 2000.

Perhaps the right (as in correct) candidate: straight talking and charismatic, can win in the primary and the general.

After some back-and-forth on if there are any potential candidates who really could challenge Max, this list was mentioned:

– Lizard offered Wilmer. I’d second that.

– Denise Juneau would be a great candidate

– Nancy Keenan just left NARAL. She’d be a formidable candidate!

– Ellie Hill from Missoula is a rising star in dem circles. Of course, that would assume that dems from other than Missoula think that any candidate from there is acceptable.

It’s a good-looking list.  The author is right that Ellie might be a stretch.  I like her but being a lawyer from Missoula is often the kiss of death in statewide politics.

Franke Wilmer would get my support and maybe if the progressives hadn’t had as many choices in the last congressional primary, she would have gone further.

Denise would be great, although she had a tough election against a flake last fall, I like to think she’s destined for higher office.

Nancy would be great, too, but who knows if she’s even interested.  She had a rugged campaign against Rehberg in 2000 in which he slimed her repeatedly, but I don’t think Rehberg’s strategy would work as well this time around.

So, obviously, it won’t be easy for anyone, but this list is a good start.

Here are but three issues that have alienated me from Max and, I’m guessing, other Democratic voters, too.

1) His consistent support for the war in Iraq.

2) His handling of health care reform.

3) His shit-eating grin as he stood over George W. Bush’s shoulder as Bush signed the 2001 tax cut bill.

There are other issues, too.  But can anyone except Max beat a Republican in the general election?  From the post itself:

“I for one, cannot work to help create Senator Steve Daines or Senator Dennis Rehberg. Attacking Baucus without a candidate who can defeat Republicans like these is beyond foolish; it’s just grandstanding to get attention.”

First of all, Rehberg is a loser.  And he says he won’t run for office again (although one should never take Rehberg at his word).  The way Denny has acted since his loss, though, just doesn’t make him a contender, IMHO.

And Daines is just Rehberg Lite.

The thing to consider here is that the Republican Party is in disarray.  Who knows whom its nominee might be.  Champ Edmunds?  Krayton Kerns?  Derek Skees?  Wouldn’t that be sweet?

If Max makes it through the primary I’ll, of course, vote for him over a Republican in the general (unless there’s a progressive Republican running, but that’s an oxymoron).  And I’ll vote for Max if he’s the only name on the primary ballot.

I’m just hoping someone better than Max comes along.


*Baucus actually replaced Lee Metcalf, a Senator of equal status to Mike Mansfield.  Metcalf was from Stevensville.  He died in office at the end of his third term at age 66.

  1. I’d happily support Juneau, she’s done a great job so far and every interaction I have with her she seems like a great person and candidate. But she’ll only win with a strong libertarian spoiler – without one, she nearly lost the traditionally Dem seat she already holds. I don’t know if the others have any better chances. But honestly, there’s no guarantee Max will win either, so I think at this point any of the three you propose would be good options.

  2. larry kurtz

    Pressure is increasing on Max to step aside and let the Gov. announce. This from Bill Moyers:

    • petetalbot

      Thanks for the link, Larry. Fascinating.

      • larry kurtz

        Tom Harkin’s bow could be dénouement. Best wishes, Pete.

        • Steve W

          Larry, i see your S Dakota state House of Representatives have just overwhelmingly passed a bill to put volunteers with guns in schools. God can’t be far behind.

          Did you go and testify against this extreme stupidity?

          • larry kurtz

            Fear not: Montana’s legislature is still ahead in the nut race and will likely win again this year. That dubious distinction is hardly something to brag about to the ewes with which you and Moore sleep, Steve.

            • larry kurtz

              Looks like your idiots just regained the lead:


              • Steve W

                Working on doesn’t equal overwhelmingly passed. We have a Democratic Governor who has already promised to veto the bat-shit crazy bills while you have a Republican super majority in the legislature and a Republican Governor. So my guess is you will end up with far worse legislation being signed into law.

                When you say “Moore” are you referring to my new batshit crazy Republican state representative David “Doc” Moore, or do you mean blog participant Craig Moore?

                And how do you know if “Moore” (either one) like ewes or rams? Or is that just an assumption on your part?

                So I take it you don’t involve yourself in your legislature? I wrote Doc Moore about his THC Per Se law he introduced into the house. It’s voodoo science designed to further the stupid wasteful idiotic war on cannabis and to punish innocent people who smoked some cannabis sometime somewhere. It will do nothing to make our drivers safer. Hopefully it will run out of gas or if it’s passed the governor will veto it. We shall see.

              • lizard19

                I’m writing a post that includes that idiotic legislation, Steve, stay tuned.

  3. I do think voters are fed up with “Max.” And he knows it, elsewise why be so concerned about random GOP legislators that may run against him. He could be beaten in a primary or a general. And knowing Baucus he’s got the polls to show it.

  4. Big Swede

    Due to the recent tragedy make sure your candidate stands firm on getting these assault weapons off the street.

  5. Yo, B-birds, I appreciate the mention but Max Baucus has my unequivocal support for re-election. Max has been working for Montana families, women, and jobs since before I was born and I think he is a helluva guy. He has earned our support and he’s got mine. Plus, he is the longstanding backbone of the Montana Democratic Party… in good times and bad.

    It’s easy to throw rocks, it ain’t easy to survive unblemished in the extreme partisan gridlock in Washington. Lord knows, the Montana legislature is hard enough.

    I’ll be proudly getting behind Max, who by the way, has a voting record almost identical to Senator Jon Tester: pro-choice, anti-Citizen United, pro-labor, pro-schools. I could go on.

    Now I must return to the halls of the Capitol, where today we will debate the finer merits of no longer teaching evolution to kids and privatizing public education and turning back the clock to criminalize a woman’s right to make medical decisions about her own body and discriminating against gays. I could go on here, too. It’s all about jobs, doncha know.

    Love y’all and keep up the good work on 4&20.

  6. larry kurtz

    The Hatch connection? LDS wants ObamaCare:

  7. There’s no point in speculating Pete – both you and I know that the Montana Dems will not run a serious primary opponent against Max – they don’t have the spine. And I can’t think of anybody on the GOP side to give him a run either, especially after the mega-smear campaign the out of state libs ran against Denny –

    • Steve W

      AAAwww did little Denny get all beat up? He can dish it but he can’t take it I guess.

      There’s always a point in speculating.

      I agree that as of today at this time I don’t see anyone running to defeat Baucus in primary nor general. But that could change fast.

  1. 1 “The Best Policy for Montanans Amgen” « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] not going to dissect this story. What with all the hoopla over at Pogie’s Place, and Pete’s article below, it seems that there is a crack in the dem distortion field that protects incumbent, yet corrupt, […]

  2. 2 Baucus Camp Desperate | Treasure State Politics

    […] by his side of the aisle (from his colleagues on the Senate,  the mainstream media,as well as liberal blogs). Outside of the Baucus revolving door, no one from either party is too enthusiastic about him, […]

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