Obama’s Influence in Montana 2012

Aaron Flint posted on March 31, 2011 08:35 :: 3396 Views

When analyzing the three successive polls showing incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) facing a tough re-election fight against Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT), so far one angle that has been left out is this:  the impact that having Barack Obama on the same ticket will also have on the race. 

Politico’s David Catanese explores the question further with leading political operatives in Washington, DC with this piece out today.

He begins with quotes from leading Democrats pointing out the Obama machine’s likely get out the vote efforts, combined with an ability to raise a lot of cash, but adds this about states like Montana:

But in three states where Obama fell short in 2008 — Nebraska, Missouri and Montana — the president may be another arrow in GOP challengers’ quivers.

“Obviously, it’ll be different than 2008, because he’ll be running a campaign based on his record, not his rhetorical promises. These are challenges for Democrats in states McCain carried,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn.

Former Minnesota Republican Senator Norm Coleman, now working for a conservative think tank added this:

While Tester’s numbers remain strong, a Lee Newspapers survey in mid-March found that 57 percent of residents favor repeal of the health care law.

“No matter what the [Democratic National Committee] tells you, it’s not getting better. People are not warming up to Obamacare,” Coleman said. “He’s not carrying any Democratic senator over the line in Montana. I don’t even think he visits.”

Speaking of health care, earlier this week I linked to another report by Catanese highlighting the nation’s top 10 races for Governor in 2012.   In his report, Catanese reported on Democratic Attorney General Steve Bullock’s team purchasing a Gubernatorial campaign website.

As for Bullock’s potential gubernatorial prospects, he added this:

One potential thorny issue for Bullock to navigate:  Recent polling showing a majority of Montanans want the federal health care law repealed.

Bullock certainly has problems with regard to the health care bill.  As Montana’s Attorney General, he has so far refused to join other Attorneys General opposing the federal health care bill and the mandates associated with the law.  Don’t think that’s an issue, well, all you have to do is ask current Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT).  He told me on my statewide radio talk show broadcast from his office that the federal health care bill was an “overreach” that will break the state’s budget.  

You can certainly empathize with Democrats pressing Bullock to run for Governor.  Heck, with Governor Schweitzer still holding approval ratings in the 60’s- why wouldn’t a Democrat think they could win the Governor’s office again in 2012?   

Aside from what has been mentioned above already: the health care problem, and having Obama on the ticket.  (Not to mention the fact that Bullock is more like our US Senators, and unlike Gov. Schweitzer, in dodging talk radio) Bullock’s much bigger problem is his vote against developing the Otter Creek Coal Tracts.  Before even a shovel of coal has been pulled out of Otter Creek, Montana’s budget, “danger close” to  facing a $300 million deficit, was handed an $80-million plus rescue package courtesy of Arch Coal.  Bullock may be able to explain his Otter Creek vote to environmentalists in Missoula, but try telling that to all the poor, elderly, disabled and other interest groups who are still wondering whether or not their budgets will be cut.  Not to mention the schools.  

Instead of being the “heir apparent” to a popular Democratic Governor, Bullock has placed himself decidedly to the left of Schweitzer.  The title of heir apparent, oddly enough, would be more appropriate to a GOP gubernatorial contender- especially when you consider Otter Creek.  This debate is already evident in the GOP primary as former Congressman Rick Hill has been touting his effort in Congress to secure the Otter Creek Coal tracts in the 1990’s, while former State Senator Corey Stapleton has been touting his more recent effort in the Montana State Legislature. 

The Democrats likely understand this, but feel forced to push Bullock into a gubernatorial bid, considering the ability for the state’s Attorney General to push up his name ID through PSA’s, earned media, and what seem like daily puff-piece editorials out of the Billings Gazette.  His candidacy may be flawed,  he may be placing his job as Attorney General in jeopardy, but Steve Bullock may also be the Democrats only real choice for Governor in 2012.    

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