GOP Candidate Field Grows in Number, Not Credibility


Another three candidates have joined the Republican field, seeking the right to be defeated by Steve Bullock in 2012. The latest crop? An anti-wolf zealot, a science fiction author who ran Michael Lange’s digital operations in his disastrous 2008 campaign, and a state senator who believes that, although he is possessed of the wisdom necessary to overturn the will of the voters, they should vote for him anyway.

The first two candidates, Bob Fanning and Drew Turiano, have really only accomplished one thing by entering the race: Neil Livingstone is no longer the the candidate with the least connection to Montana, nor the one with the most unconventional ideas.

Essman, though, is another matter. Don’t get me wrong—he has no chance of winning the race—but he’s backed by Denny Rehberg’s political team—suggesting that he sees himself as a frontrunner in the race, despite his lack of charisma and political aptitude.

Essman’s plan for improving the business climate in Montana makes Herman Cain’s plan for the US economy seem downright substantive. His three point plan, according the Billings Gazette?

  • putting the state’s checkbook online
  • a red tape hotline in the governor’s office that frustrated businesses can call
  • decreased taxes

Talk about a visionary plan for Montana. As if a Republican putting himself at the beck and call of businesses would somehow be new or surprising.

Ultimately, Rick Hill seems like both the biggest winner and loser, given this ever-expanding field. On a practical level, the more candidates he faces in the primary, the better off he is. If facing one anti-government zealot is good, facing off against two is even better. The same goes for state senators without records of achievement.

On the other hand, Essman’s entry suggests something else. Republicans are deeply worried about Rick Hill winning the primary and think he is vulnerable in some significant way. Why else, other than delusions of grandeur, would Essman throw his name in the ring at this stage of the game?

Barring some revelation, though, this is Hill’s race to win: he’s got the name recognition, the money, and the support of the big names in the GOP. Even the powerhouse political strategist at 47 North can’t change that.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-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.

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