Montana Politics

Time for Tester To Go For Broke?

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Mike, over at The Last Best Place, thinks that Jon Tester has been too timid on the Morrison ethics issue, and needs to go all out, if he hopes to win the primary:

…have been a vocal proponent of Tester going for broke on the ethical and moral lapses in John Morrison’s past… It’s now less than a month from the primary and I’m afraid Tester has already lost enough ground to make Morrison’s “lead” … an emergent change needs to be made in the Tester For Senate campaign…and NOW.

Though that thought has crossed my mind in the past few weeks, I think Mike might be wrong about this. I just can’t imagine that the Burns people wouldn’t be thrilled by the Democratic primary turning really nasty in the last few weeks, because it will give them a free pass to go negative in the fall.

“But,” I hear you say, “they’re going to do it anyway,” and you are right. Burns can’t win on the issues, so the his campaign will be unbelievably nasty, no matter which Democrat wins. But candidates always pay a price for going negative. My fear is that if the Democrats do the heavy lifting and start the negativity, Burns will get a free pass. He won’t be introducing negative ideas; he will merely be raising issues that Democrats themselves have already brought to the table.

I think the Tester campaign has struck just about the right note on the Morrison ethics issue. They’re not making allegations they can’t back up, they’re not focusing on the infidelity, they’re not really attacking Morrison. The focus seems to be about reminding voters that Tester has a strong ethical background, something that will be useful in both the primary and the general.

If Tester wins the nomination by going hard negative, I think he can write off the general election. As much as I have appreciated his specificity on the issues, personality is going to play heavily in this race. It’ll be pretty hard for Jon to make voters see him as a good neighbor and decent family man if he goes negative.

In a state that is still awfully blue red, Democrats have to be careful not to alienate too many voters; going negative now can only accomplish that for Tester.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is a seventeen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

4 Comments

  • I think Tester has finally realized that his opponent is John Morrison, and not Conrad Burns.

    The GOP couldn’t care less if the Democrats criticize each other, because I think this election will be decided not on issues, but on accomplishments.

    Senator Burns has a list of accomplishments as long as my arm, from 2 decades of serving Montana, and John Morrison does not.

  • Agreed, Pogie. I think Jon Tester is navigating these treacherous waters well. Negativity alienates voters and depresses turnout. Jon is personable candidate, he just has to personally connect with more Montanans. By the way, I think by the usual color scheme, Montana is said to be awfully RED, not blue.

  • Conrad is already going negative early on. the radio ads I have heard are very critical of both tester and morrison.

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