GOP Sees Silver Lining in New Senate Poll

Aaron Flint posted on April 30, 2013 14:58 :: 1844 Views

The GOP sees silver linings in a new poll showing former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) leading any named contenders in a potential 2014 US Senate matchup. 

The pollster, Harper Polling, noted this:

As expected, former Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer holds an early 4% lead over his nearest competitor in the race to fill the seat of retiring Senator Max Baucus. That’s where the good news ends for Schweitzer.

Montanans prefer to fill Baucus’ seat with a Republican as opposed to a Democrat by a margin of 42% to 34%.  Republicans fair better among at women at +10% than among men at +4%.

The national issue environment being driven by Washington opens up several fronts of vulnerability for Schweitzer. The debate over budget priorities between the two political parties spells trouble for Schweitzer. The Republicans’ priority of a balanced budget beats the Democrats’ priority of stopping Medicare cuts by a wide margin of 53% to 31%.  Even Montana seniors pick balancing the budget over stopping cuts to Medicare by a 50% to 32% spread.

Meanwhile, former Congressman Rick Hill (R-MT) says if you take away Schweitzer’s advantage in name ID, the contest will be close. He added that what is amazing is not Schweitzer’s lead, but that Schweitzer is held to 50% or less in spite of the huge name ID advantage.

Looking ahead to 2014, the GOP is reaching out to Indian country, as Indian Country Today reports:

Native influence will be even greater if an ongoing lawsuit (Mark Wandering Medicine v. Linda McCulloch, now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) to require satellite election offices on Montana reservations succeeds, according to Rodgers. “With satellite registration and voting, Indian turnout will skyrocket—and the only way to get political power is to affect political outcomes.” (Related story: NCAI, DOJ Weigh in on Behalf of Native Voting-Rights Plaintiffs)

Both major parties see the potential of the Native vote. The Montana GOP is talking to the Republican National Committee about funding a staff position to do outreach in tribal communities, according to state party executive director Bowen Greenwood. “When a race is close, every vote counts,” says Greenwood, who argues that Native beliefs in tradition and caring for the land and their desire for economic development match Republican ideals.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) insists he is not “turning out to pasture” in a weekend guest opinion column in the state’s newspapers.

CNN picked up on the column, headlining the odd goodbye as “On Baucus Pond”:

“This was not an easy decision (to not seek re-election), but the last few months I’ve felt the calling:It whispered to me among the elk resting in a meadow east of the Bridger Mountains.

I heard it as thousands of snow geese flew over the Rocky Mountain Front.

Well whispering willows…

Jennifer Bendery with The Huffington Post added:

“The pull came up from my soul like the ducks that rose in clouds from the winter wheat fields of Teton County at dusk.”

Baucus, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has long had a penchant for literary or historical references. Just this week, his opening remarks in a hearing on trade policy included an anecdote about Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana, and he began another hearing on the foster care system with a quote by Winston Churchill about the “virtues of human society.”

And, from the right, Betsy Woodruff has a piece at National Review headlined “Montana’s Democratic Hope.”   She starts by detailing an appearance by President Obama and Senator Baucus at an event to push Obamacare at the Bozeman airport:

But the two were desperate to just get some — any — sort of reform pushed through (hence the whistlestop-west publicity tour) and didn’t want to cater to far-left groups. And Montana’s then-governor Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat, wasn’t having it. He introduced the two to attendees at the rally and, in his introduction, went off in favor of a Canadian-style single-payer health-care system, a none-too-subtle dig at the proposed reforms for which the rally was supposed to gin up support. The introduction was “just a vocal ‘f*** you’ to the president and chairman Baucus,” as one Montana political insider characterizes it. And Baucus wasn’t pleased.

“The way I’ve heard it, and this is from Baucus people, is Baucus almost threw a punch at Schweitzer backstage after the event,” says the insider. “His nostrils were flaring, fists clenched.”

The former governor isn’t invulnerable. He’ll draw heat from both ends of the political spectrum — environmentalists deplore his pro-coal stance, and he’s fond of saying about gun control, “You control yours, I’ll control mine.” That said, some argue that he would have supported the Toomey-Manchin background-check amendment. And he vetoed a universal concealed-carry bill that the NRA had lobbied for.

If Schweitzer decides to run, California could be a cash cow for the former Governor, according to an Oakland Tribune blog:

While running for his second gubernatorial term in 2008, Schweitzer raised at least $137,000 in the Golden State – and that was for a contest that didn’t affect the national balance of power as this 2014 Senate race could.

Among the almost 300 California donors to Schweitzer’s 2008 campaign were entertainment figures such as Rob Reiner, Larry David, Michael Keaton and Casey Kasem; tech and venture capital figures like Steve Silberstein and Andrew Rappaport; Obama bundlers Wade Randlett, Steve Spinner, John Emerson and Nancy Koppelman; and other politically connected folks such as retired appeals court judge William Newsom, our lieutenant governor’s father.

Is Daily Kos trying to curb some of the lefty enthusiasm as the question is posed- Brian Schweitzer: a bold progressive or just another fossil fueled politician?

When it’s disclosed that Mark Zuckerberg funds pro-Keystone XL ads, the denouncement is swift –  a CREDO petition asking his group to stop running ads supporting fossil fuels already has 13,000 signatures. But when Brian Schweitzer does the same? Crickets. Instead, Progressive Change Campaign Committee gets 15,000 signatures on a petition to draft him.

Why are progressives so willing to overlook Schweitzer’s pro-Keystone, pro-coal stands?

Myth: “There are no other viable Democratic politicians in MT. If we don’t run Schweitzer the Democrats will lose a seat.” Fact: This Great Falls Tribune storystory lays out all the potential candidates, including Denise Juneau and Stephanie Schriock.

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