Why Is the Gianforte Campaign So Afraid of Its Own Candidate?

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While it was hardly breaking news, the Lee newspapers finally ran an in-depth analysis of some of the charitable giving that Republican candidate for governor Greg Gianforte has engaged in over the past few years.

The Gianforte campaign responded to the reporter’s questions with OUTRAGE:

Asked what voters might learn about the policy stances and worldview of Gianforte the candidate from the spending and advocacy of Gianforte the philanthropist, campaign Spokesman Aaron Flint called the question “flawed, if not outright inappropriate.”

Of course they did, because that’s got to be the Gianforte campaign strategy, because he simply won’t take a position on any of the policy questions facing the state. He’s ducked questions on Right to Work legislation, the CKST Treaty, discrimination against the LGBTQ community, school privatization, and a host of other issues during the campaign. In this Lee article, despite his record of not only supporting the anti-choice movement but deceptive clinics that manipulate women seeking abortions, he wouldn’t even answer whether or not he would support anti-abortion legislation as governor.

And here’s the bind the Gianforte people find themselves in: because the candidate has offered no vision or policy for the state other than to occasionally mutter about entrepreneurship and business, the press and even those evil bloggers need to investigate his charitable giving because it reveals his priorities and values. Unlike Governor Bullock, who has a record as both Attorney General and Governor for voters to evaluate, Montana voters don’t have anything from Gianforte: no decisions on legislation, no clear public statements on the issues, only a record of giving to groups that endorse the privatization of our public lands and public schools, denying women access to health care, and codifying discrimination. Despite their outrage, those decisions matter—and show the kind of priorities he’d bring to the governor’s office.

If Gianforte tells the truth about what he’d do as governor, he’ll alienate voters perhaps misled by his confusing message about wages and jobs, but if he stays silent, there will be more focus on his support for extremist positions and organizations. When you have a candidate who will make himself less popular every time he opens his mouth, you try to do what Gianforte’s campaign has done: distract the public with non-issues and avoid specifics, but that simply can’t be sustained throughout a lengthy campaign.

Reproductive health? Jobs! School privatization? Jobs! Public lands? Jobs? isn’t a campaign strategy that will work for long.

And that’s why his campaign staff has to bluster and generate outrage: the alternative, telling Montana voters that Mr. Gianforte is an extremist who will impose his religious and philosophical worldview on the state, is simply untenable.

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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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